Police Minister Bheki Cele has welcomed the decline in the murder rate since the start of Operation Lockdown. In a statement issued on Wednesday, the police ministry said the operation had led to the arrest of almost 6 000 people and recovery of 100 firearms in the Western Cape.The joint operation comprising members of the police and South African National Defence Force (SANDF), was launched in July this year to curb serious violent crimes plaguing the Cape Flats and other townships in the province.Department spokesperson Lirandzu Themba said Cele and his deputy, Cassel Mathale, had received a consolidated report of the operational interventions in the Western Cape, ranging from Operation Thunder that was launched in May 2018, the anti-gang unit that was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in November 2018 and ultimately Operation Lockdown that became operational in July 2019 and extended to March 2020.Following operational discussions and analysis, a decision was taken to merge the three major interventions under one central operational command to address the scourge of gangsterism and other priority crimes in the province."It goes without saying that that government has invested a lot of resources in the Western Cape from 2018 to date. This was primarily informed by the crime statistics reporting pattern that revealed more than 50% of the top 30 police stations are located in the Cape metropole, with a specific focus on contact and trio crimes," said Themba.The interventions in tackling contact crimes have shown a positive impact such as the stabilisation of the murder rate. "There are still other policing precincts where trio crimes and robbery aggravated crimes are still on the increase, especially street robberies and car hijackings," Themba said.The operation has resulted in 5 969 arrests, 100 firearms and 196 rounds of ammunition seized and 565 knives recovered.The ministry believes that through planning, intelligence and mutually beneficial partnerships, the interventions will achieve their intended successes."Operation Lockdown remains a temporary support to Western Cape police. The provincial police operational planning is in preparation for the inevitable withdrawal of the additional forces."The police in the Western Cape are aware of the extension of the duration of the SANDF deployment in Cape Town to March 2020. "As a consequence, operations are still executed with vigour and strength without fail. Integrated forces attached to Operation Lockdown have been hard at work executing operations in the identified areas or as guided by the crime threat analysis," Themba concluded.