Drones, social media snooping and cracking codes - SA's potential crackdown on gangs

2017-09-07 07:32


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Cape Town - Gang lords in South Africa could in future be monitored from above - by drones.

A tech savvy national intervention to intensify the squeeze on gangsterism is in the pipeline, but such intense monitoring can only be implemented if police agree with the relevant politicians.

Drones are more likely to be used by police for crowd control purposes.

However, there are drastic plans in place to try and crack down on gangsterism, which has become a countrywide problem.

READ: Police 'confused' over national gun probe and anti-gang law

Gang violence has recently surged in the Western Cape particularly. A 7-year-old boy was shot on Sunday, September 3, in one of the latest incidents involving children.

National plan

On Friday Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi is set to visit the Cape Flats - areas outside of the Cape Town city centre which have been bearing the brunt of gang violence.

A national anti-gangsterism strategy was approved by Cabinet in February 2017.

The four basic pillars of it are: The criminal justice process, human development, social partnership and spatial design.
Details about the plan, the extent of gangsterism, and the links between provinces and organised crime, were recently revealed in Parliament. The issue of drones was also examined.

Asked if he could elaborate on this, national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo on Wednesday told News24 he was not comfortable disclosing tactical crime-fighting details and was still sourcing information.

However, he was not able to provide a response by the time of publication.

READ: Infighting, drug clashes - here's what is igniting Cape Town's gang battles

Details about the anti-gang strategy are contained in a report of a meeting about the plan and other matters. News24 has a copy of the document in its possession. The meeting was held by the police portfolio committee on August 23.

Deputy national commissioner of policing Lieutenant-General Sehlahle Masemola told the meeting that gangsterism in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape was "a major cause for concern".

Gangs in other provinces, he said, were less structured.

In KwaZulu-Natal, police had noted that gang activity, linked mainly to drug runners, was high in Chatsworth. But there were more organised gangs in Wentworth.

Gauteng is SA's 'drug supplier'

Masemola said that most drugs came from Gauteng and from there were supplied to the rest of SA.

However, there was less gang activity in Gauteng than in other areas, including the Western Cape.

Masemola said Crime Intelligence and Hawks officers were addressing the prevalence of gangsterism.

"There is no specific training for SAPS in terms of drugs. There is, however, on-the-job training for mainstream SAPS but that is an area which should be perhaps looked at."

READ: Plato slams Western Cape parents over 9-year-old gangsters

Masemola said a strategy involving the rotation of officers between stations and locations including airports to try and clamp down on gangsterism and root out corruption was being developed.

Consultation with labour unions was needed for this to be implemented.

Masemola said "unconventional methods" were sometimes used successfully in investigations.

Drone surveillance

Democratic Alliance MP Zakhele Mbhele asked whether police could use drone surveillance for 24-hour monitoring of the homes of drug lords.

"A patrol car driving past intermittently allows windows of time for activities to take place in between," the meeting record quoted him as saying.

"Smart, digital policing might be useful."

COLUMN: Gangsterism grabs hold of girls

Mbhele said he had heard that code words, relating to crimes, were being used on social media.

He therefore also wanted to know if these forums were being monitored and whether informants were being used to crack codes.

"Currently police are used during disruptive measures, often following or monitoring suspects," Masemola said according to the meeting report.

"It is something which will be looked at once the drones are approved."

Facebook foiling prison gangsters

In the Eastern Cape, police were aware of gangs, including the 27s and 28s, and were dealing with members inside and outside of prisons.

Eastern Cape police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga said to identify and quash gangs in prison, various methods, including monitoring Facebook, were used.

"If someone from within the prison is using Facebook to communicate then the prison is contacted to alert them that they must conduct a search."

Ntshinga said the province's gang unit was based in an operational command centre and this concept was working.

Deputy national commissioner for management interventions Lieutenant-General Gary Kruser said a private project focusing on detection was being run in the Eastern Cape.

"A system [was] implemented with intelligence, detectives and forensics working together. Every crime scene was visited by all three," he said.

"That gang unit has achieved a 65% conviction rate…The system is working and with the use of these operation centres, this will be implemented further."

Illicit relations

Collusion between police officers and gangsters was a reality, the meeting heard, and gang leaders often made it difficult to uncover this link.

Acting National Police Commissioner Lesetja Mothiba, according to the meeting report, said there had been several arrests and convictions for collusion by police.

"These investigations take a long time as colluding SAPS members can assist gangs both directly and indirectly," the meeting record quoted him as saying.

"There are briefings from both the Hawks and crime intelligence… [Mothiba] indicated that they are not happy with the degree of success that is being made."

Read more on:    cape town  |  gang violence  |  narcotics  |  crime

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