Lotus River shootings highlight need for intervention

Several people have been shot and killed in Lotus River in the past few months. In the picture the bodies of two men were found in a car. Picture Leon Knipe

Gang-related shootings and murders in Lotus River have prompted pleas for assistance from law enforcement agencies to address gang violence.

Ward 65 councillor Donovan Nelson issued a formal request to the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral committee member of safety and security, JP Smith and the Provincial MEC of Police Oversight Reagan Allen following several shootings in the area over the last few months (Shootings continue in Lotus River, Southern Mail, August 28).

Between Sunday August 1 and Sunday August 8 there were three murders in the area.

Grassy Park police station commander Colonel Dawood Laing said the area is stabilised and there hasn’t been any shootings in the past week and said they are monitoring the area closely and investigations are still ongoing.

“We are addressing it and the members have been hard at work to deal with it and we have been focusing on Lotus River to try and eradicate the gang violence but the problem is we have limited resources and we can only work with what we have. We are, however, still focused on the job at hand but we need the community to make statements and help us arrest those who are responsible.”

In the request, Mr Nelson called for the urgent need for additional resources and support to combat the issue and gave a five-point solution aimed at tackling the gang violence specific to Lotus River.

“The safety and well-being of our residents are of paramount importance and it is our legal obligation to address this issue promptly and effectively,” said Mr Nelson.

“I believe that by implementing these strategies, we can make significant progress in reducing gang-related violence and improving the overall safety of our ward. However, we need the necessary resources and support to execute these measures effectively.”

The five points include increased police presence and for more officers to be deployed to the area, community policing initiatives to encourage a partnership between law enforcement and residents, youth development programmes to provide alternatives to gang participation, targeted interventions such as intelligence led operations to disrupt criminal activities and victim support services to provide counselling and resources.

“I believe that by implementing these strategies, we can make significant progress in reducing gang-related violence and improving the overall safety of Ward 65,” said Mr Nelson.

He said additional resources are, however, needed from the two respective departments and requested a meeting to discuss the issues.

In response to questions from the Southern Mail about the penned request, Mr Allen said a comprehensive response will be sent to the councillor directly but said the Western Cape Government’s Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers are deployed at certain areas that are responsible for more than 50% of all murders across the entire province.

“Our interventions are data-led, based on evidence and where the need is greatest. This includes our top 10 murder areas in the Western Cape, such as Delft, Gugulethu, Harare, Khayelitsha, Kraaifontein, Mfuleni, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Philippi East, and Samora Machel,” said Mr Allen.

He added other high crime areas in which they are deployed are Lavender Hill, Steenberg, Grassy Park, Atlantis, Bishop Lavis and Hanover Park.

Mr Smith said the City’s enforcement services act in support of police who are the main enforcement agency tasked to prevent crime.

He said the department has implemented numerous social interventions around youth upliftment and empowerment through their Metro Police youth camps and the Youth Cadets and that the directorate’s primary focus is enforcement outcomes.

“The City is constantly investing in human resources, but also technology to improve our enforcement outcomes and build safer communities. This includes CCTV, the introduction of dashcams and bodycams, our Emergency Policing Incident Control (EPIC) system, the gunshot detection technology and more.

“We have developed a good relationship with police at local level, but it is painful to see the continued under-resourcing that the service is dealing with. It is also an ongoing problem that our efforts on the ground in terms of making arrests and confiscating contraband do not translate quickly enough into convictions and keeping criminals off the street,” said Mr Smith.

Asked what the directorate’s next step was to assist the community of Lotus River, Mr Smith said much of the crisis experienced with crime related and gang shootings are not caused only by the lack of visible crime prevention resources but the failure of the criminal justice system to convict criminals for serious offences.

“Currently only 2% of serious crime arrests leads to arrests. SA will not win the war against crime if this is not urgently improved and all the components of the criminal justice system fall under national government.”

Mr Smith said currently, there is a shortage of detectives within the municipal boundaries of the city and more boots on the ground will mean nothing without improved conviction rates.

“Aside from police recruiting and training more detectives this could also be addressed by the national government by confirming more investigative powers on the City to assist police to improve conviction rates.”

He reaffirmed the provincial government’s call to the national minister to facilitate the sharing of crime data and crime intelligence to allow for the City to play a far more meaningful role in the fight against crime.

“The City has the resources to assist police with CCTV footage, gunfire detection systems, drones and other data which could lead to better convictions within the city boundaries. The City also calls on police to fully commit to Safer Cities agreement and expedite the various work streams, which would allow police to have full access to emerging range of technology developments and tools,” he said.

There was no response on Southern Mail’s enquiry to the national police department or the national minister at the time of going to print.