Top cops

2008-07-12 00:00

The British government’s commendation of the work done by four members of Pietermaritzburg’s Organised Crime Unit in breaking a major international drug-trafficking syndicate is high praise indeed. In recent years this country has acquired a dismal reputation as a conduit for drugs and the generally high crime rate is often ascribed to inept police work. Some of that criticism is doubtless justified, although it is not entirely fair to single out the overextended and under-resourced South African Police Services as the weakest point in a criminal justice system that, from the prevention of crime through detection, prosecution, punishment and rehabilitation, has many flaws. In fact, people who have had dealings with the police have often been able to make very complimentary reports.

This instance, however, is particularly impressive. From their base in the capital, the members of this specialist unit traced links across this province and abroad to the United Kingdom, connecting a cache of drugs in a Tongaat warehouse to a shipment in the port of Felixstowe. The length of the sentences handed down in Camperdown and England underscore the severity of the offence.

This was police work of the highest calibre, and deservedly recognised as such by the UK’s Metropolitan Police and Foreign Office. Nor was this an isolated instance, but part of a pattern of co-operation. For anxious South Africans who often feel veritably besieged by crime, it is an encouraging reminder that the best police officers here are as good as any in the world.

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