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Task teams have delivered a decisive blow against organised crime

The use of task teams in fighting organised crime‚ in particular syndicates involved in mall robberies and the hijacking of cigarette-delivery vehicles‚ was yielding positive results and nearly four hundred suspects had been arrested countrywide so far‚ national police commissioner Riah Phiyega said on Wednesday.

A total of 359 suspects had been arrested for crimes that were committed as far back as 2013. Several police officers had also been arrested for their involvement in illicit cigarette smuggling.

Apart from saving the affected companies millions of rand in stolen stock and the damage to the country’s economy and reputation‚ the task team had also seized as many as 34 motor vehicles‚ 25 firearms‚ more than 12‚000 cartons of cigarettes and cash.

Phiyega said the arrest of policemen highlighted the complexity of the type or crime the South African Police Service (SAPS) was dealing with and “our plight as dedicated law enforcers to curbing this crime trend successfully”.

“The members that were arrested hold the ranks of constable and sergeant‚ the level of police officers that are supposed to be in the forefront of crime fighting and who South Africa is depending on to keep them safe; instead they are alleged to have opted for the life of crime.”

She said 1‚663 police officers had been dismissed over the past three years‚ including 21 in July‚ “and we shall not hesitate to do the same in the future”.

In a report back on progress the SAPS had made in dealing with the “two areas of crime that have been plaguing us for a while”‚ Phiyega‚ said “great strides and significant progress” had been made.

“So much so that even this morning the quick response by the police resulted in the arrest of suspects in Baden Powell Drive shortly after they robbed a cigarette delivery truck in Muizenberg.

“In Gauteng earlier today‚ six suspects were arrested by the K9 Unit‚ after a car chase and shootout‚ following a robbery of a BAT vehicle in Klerksdorp. One of the suspects was wounded and is presently under guard in hospital.

“Yesterday in Mpumalanga‚ the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations‚ better known as the Hawks‚ arrested eight members of the SAPS following their alleged involvement in the illicit trade of cigarettes‚” she said.

In response to robbers whose primary targets were shops selling cellular phones and other ICT equipment‚ she said she had issued instructions for the formation of a multi-disciplinary task team to look into these robberies.

“A team of detectives‚ the tactical response teams‚ undercover police from crime intelligence and external stakeholders whose businesses were adversely affected by these robberies‚ came together under one roof in the form of a task team.

“Since then‚ more than 30 people belonging to three different gangs‚ allegedly involved in mall robberies both in the Western Cape and Gauteng‚ have been arrested and are currently appearing in courts around the country. Firearms and vehicles were also seized‚” she said.

“We work with all the relevant units of the SAPS‚ the National Prosecuting Authority‚ and the affected stakeholders. So in a nutshell all the required expertise is across the table rather than across town. And secondly we find the concept of partnership policing handy in assisting us in the fight against crime.

“We have also entered into memoranda of understanding with different role players‚ in the business‚ government and nongovernmental organisational sectors. We want to have the faces of criminals splashed out on televisions‚ and therefore entered into a memoranda of understanding with the SABC.

“We also intend to keep the lines of communication with shopping mall owners open‚ that is why we managed to bring the robbers to book‚ to mention but a few.

“The SAPS will‚ however‚ deal with each and every crime pattern differently after weighing all the options at our disposal. We will adopt and implement strategies we feel will be best suited to deal with the different crimes decisively‚” Phiyega said.

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