More than 1 500 drug houses in the Western Cape 'feed organised crime'
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Cape Town - The police are waging a daily battle against more than 1 500 "known" drug houses in the province.
In recent briefing to the provincial legislature’s community safety standing committee, the SAPS’ provincial management, while briefing the committee on gang violence, said known drug houses across the province totalled 1 577 – as at the end of June.
Committee chairperson Reagan Allen said he asked the police for its definition of a “known drug house” and how it goes about the closure thereof, specifically relating to support from reliable informants.
He said the prevalence of drug houses in the province feeds organised crime, particularly in the form of gang violence.
“We must ensure that we remain one step ahead and root out every form of criminal activity in the province. Along with the perpetuation of organised crime – through illegal trade of drugs and ammunition – drug houses further threaten lives and livelihoods,” said Allen.
Criminologist at Stellenbosch University's Political Science Department Guy Lamb said the policing of drugs has been less of a priority in recent years because the police have been focusing on more violent crimes.
Provincial community policing forum board chairperson Fransina Lukas said the police have been facing a mammoth task and it was not easy, especially if there was no cooperation from communities, because drug dens were within communities.
Lukas said the police could only act if they received credible information from communities.
She said the police were trying their best and recorded successes, however, it was short-lived because soon after a raid has been done by the police, the illegal activities continue.
SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) provincial chairperson Bongikhaya Qhama said for the fact that those houses were known to the communities, it means that communities have tried their best to partner with the police, assisting in handing over that kind of information.
Qhama said now it was not upon the community to arrest those that were alleged, the police have a duty to investigate and later arrest.
Manenberg safety forum chairperson Roegchanda Pascoe said the police were not going to win the war against drugs due to corruption.
"Most of our police officials are part of these drug houses, therefore, we must forget about the police winning the fight," said Pascoe.
Safety and security mayoral committee member JP Smith said metro police, and specifically the gang and drug task team, obtained search warrants and then raided properties if drug use was reported there.
Smith said the City applies for eviction applications if the property was a rental unit owned by the Housing Department but, obviously, under the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, that has not been possible due to the regulations.
He said in the case of private properties, the Asset Forfeiture Unit (AFU), under the national government, has to act and that has to be initiated by the police.
Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile said the police would set up entrapments to prove dealing with drugs.
Patekile said once they have done that, they then ask the AFU to do further investigations in some of the houses.
SACP provincial secretary Benson Ngqentsu said the capacity of the police to deal decisively with those alleged drug houses in the province would be better measured against the existence of a well-thought strategy against drugs and crime in general.
"The capacity should include dealing decisively with rotten potatoes within the police ranks," he said.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said, in terms of the law, the police were empowered to shut down drug houses.
"That said, the Department of Community Safety leads the Provincial Safety Plan, which takes a data-led approach to support SAPS in law enforcement, through Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) and which drives violence prevention and developmental initiatives," said Fritz.