JANUARY is a financially stressful month not only for ordinary citizens, but apparently gangsters too.
Crime experts and police believe the spike in shootings is due to turf wars underpinned by financial woes.
In the past two weeks, police and the City’s law enforcement agencies have reportedly seen a spike in suspected gang-related shootings as well as the number of gun confiscations.
According to sources within SAPS’s Anti-Gang Unit and the City’s law enforcement services, officers have been responding to about seven shooting incidents across the Cape Flats on particularly “bad days”, and three incidents on normal days.
Mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith said between October to December, the City of Cape Town’s security agencies confiscated 46 firearms, 384 rounds of ammunition, and 60 imitation firearms.
While statistics for January are yet to be compiled, Smith said security agencies confiscate between 20 to 30 guns a month.
Smith believes that procuring a new gun-detection system to replace ShotSpotter as shootings in Cape Town’s gang-riddled areas is the answer to the problem.
“We can see by the number of confiscations that we have an increase in gang violence. However, we cannot give a definite number because we do not have the ShotSpotter (gunshot-detection system) anymore,” he said.
To help stem the shootings, Smith told Weekend Argus that they were in the process of getting a new tender with a larger footprint for the reintroduction of the ShotSpotter.
“The old ShotSpotter covered seven square kilometres, the new one will cover 35 square km. This will help us also pin-point when, what time and where the shots were fired.”
Last year, in a response local government MEC Anton Bredell said the ShotSpotter was no longer in use after the R31.8 million contract came to an end in 2019, three years after it was procured.
Bredell said when the contract was active, the system recorded 6 688 incidents, with 18 777 shots fired, 53 fatalities and 202 injuries.
During that period about 60 firearms, 1 010 rounds of ammunition and eight imitation firearms were confiscated.
Stellenbosch University criminologist Guy Lamb said the spike in gun violence could be attributed to the financial constraints on those coming off of the festive season.
“It is a standard thing in South Africa to see an increase in violent crime from the end of December into early January,” he said.
“There are many factors that add to the increase, including that people are at home this time, but particularly because of the economic climate.
“Money becomes less available in January and this goes for gangsters too, so they go out during this month to reclaim territory so that they can control the area and sell drugs. And reclaiming the territory often leads to shooting incidents.”
Lamb said the increase in the confiscation of guns, coupled with guns that disappear also explained why there were so many shootings in the past two weeks.
“We saw law enforcement agencies making a considerable number of arrests in connection with the confiscation of guns and ammunition, and then we also saw how nearly 160 guns disappeared from the Norwood police station,” he said.
“This means that these weapons are available…”
Lamb explained that just like any other person a gang boss, gangster or merchant has to pay school fees, buy food and provide, and just like anybody else January is a headache.
A crime-fighter who has been attending to shooting incidents for the past 27 years, said these shootings take place across the Cape Flats.
“Every day and every night, that’s how many times we get called out to attend to a shooting incident,” said the man who asked not to be identified.
“Most of the times its gangsters who get hurt or killed, but every now and then innocent people get caught in the crossfire.”
The crime-fighter said the lowering of lockdown and curfew also played a major role in how many times they were called out to a shooting incident.
“Just like everyone else gangsters were indoors, because they would stand out like a sore thumb otherwise, now we see them coming out to reclaim their territory,” he added.
“We see this often with the up and coming 6Bob gang. They first made their appearance on the Cape Flats three years ago but have been expanding very fast, with members and territory.
“All the older gangs have their eyes peeled on the 6Bobs.”
He said they have also seen a pattern that the economic trend has played on the number of shooting incidents.
Vice-chairperson of Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum (CPF), Colin de Hart said it was difficult to eradicate gang violence while territory wars take place constantly.
“There’s always been war between the Americans and Mongrels in Mitchells Plain, but recently we’ve seen an escalation, especially since the beginning of January,” he said.
De Hart said fed-up residents were also starting to reclaim their areas and calling in with tip-offs.
“They don’t want to see the youth… Their children die because of guns anymore, they are fed-up, that is why you also see so many arrests,” he added.
Spokesperson for Community Safety Wade Seale, said the positive role played by local organisations in crime prevention cannot be over emphasised.
“It is the collaborative approach between government institutions and communities that contributes to creating a safer Western Cape, as stipulated in the Western Cape Safety Plan,” he said.
“We salute all their efforts, and we hope to further entrench and expand the work that these community organisations are doing in creating a safer Western Cape.”