Paarl - Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato gave negligent parents a tongue lashing on Friday for turning a blind eye when their children join gangs and use alcohol and drugs, from as young as 9 years old."I cannot understand why a mother and a father cannot take charge of the lives of their children," Plato said at a meeting in Paarl East to determine the policing needs and priorities of the province.Paarl East is about 60km from the Cape Town CBD, but representatives at the meeting heard that the picturesque Winelands town is not immune to the gangsterism, drugs and alcohol that are plaguing residents in suburbs closer to Cape Town, such as Lavender Hill and Hanover Park.Tired of seeing young children roaming the streets at 00:00, when he joined community policing forums or neighbourhood watches, Plato gave negligent parents a piece of his mind."Why must the police come and police your own kids?" asked Plato."You have a grave responsibility to look after your children. Do not come and tell me that your kid of 9 years old is standing in the streets and drinking and you want [the SA Police Service] to come and deal with it. You cannot leave the responsibility of bringing up kids to the police."READ: Gangsters think they are the government - MbalulaPlato told News24 on Thursday that Premier Helen Zille was considering establishing a commission of inquiry into the murders of children in the province.The police refuse to provide up-to-date statistics, citing a Cabinet moratorium, but news reports place the figure of children either killed after going missing, or killed in the crossfire of gang violence, at a minimum of 34 since the beginning of January 2017.'I understand that they are scared'Participants in the meeting - which included representatives from neighbourhood watches and community policing forums, as well as the area's station commander Colonel Mabhuti Stephans - said earlier that gangsterism in the suburb Chicago in Paarl East was an ongoing issue that needed urgent attention.The commander said police were making inroads, but were extremely concerned about the number of young children they saw hanging out with gangs, and the effect that this was having on other children and the neighbourhoods.READ: 2 killed, 11 wounded in Cape Town 'gang war'Without revealing statistics, he said this was reflected in the contact crime in his precinct - assault, murder, attempted murder, rape and property crime."But the main challenge is gangs," said Stephans.Police find that if they reduce gang activity in one area, like Chicago, it moves to another area, Smartytown, and the community will not give them information on who is involved."Fourteen- to 19-year olds are the biggest problem," he revealed."There is no incident where we don't hear what happened - where, why," he said. Residents called each other after an incident to gather information to give to the police to catch a perpetrator, but if it was gang crime, they clammed up, Stephans said."I understand that they are scared," he said.'Parents need to step up'In 2017 so far, the Paarl East police dealt with 36 gang cases in Smartytown alone. Despite witnesses being reluctant to testify, only eight cases were unsolved. The rest were in court already."Look around you and you see children moving around during school and, come 14:00, these are people who play intimidation with the school children."Plato said that when he was a child he was expected to go straight home after school. He would change his clothes, go and play, and had to be back in the house at a certain time to do his homework."How can any father or mother that is a realist or level headed in his mind allow a child to run around with a live gun?"Parents need to step up if that is happening and they need to take charge of their children."On Saturday, Plato will visit Hanover Park, closer to the Cape Town CBD."And I can tell you now, we will find kids 9 and upward roaming the streets."The information gathered at these meetings were analysed and sent to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to help him decide where to prioritise resources.