CAPE TOWN– MAJOR breakthroughs were being made by multi-disciplinary task teams targeting armed robberies at shopping malls and the hijacking of trucks transporting cigarettes across the country, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega said in Cape Town on Wednesday.
“The South African Police Service (SAPS) is convinced that the use of task teams in fighting organised crime… is yielding positive results, with nearly 500 suspects having been arrested countrywide so far,’ said Phiyega.
Addressing media on Wednesday, following a heated discussion between members of parliament and provincial police commissioners in Cape Town, Phiyega said the strategy of “partnership policing” had proved to be a success. Partnership policing was the formation of multi-disciplinary task teams – which included all SAPS units and businesses affected by the crimes. Phiyega said this had brought “all needed expertise under one roof”.
“In a nutshell, the required skills is across the table, not across town,” she said.
Of the nearly 500 arrests made in connection with crimes related to shopping mall robberies and the hijacking of British American Tobacco (BAT) trucks, Phiyega highlighted three recent ones and the arrests of several officers in relation to the latter crime.
On Wednesday morning, suspects were arrested in the Western Cape after robbing a cigarette delivery truck in Muizenberg while Gauteng police nabbed six suspects following the robbery of a BAT vehicle in Klerksdorp. On Wednesday, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (Hawks) arrested eight Mpumalanga SAPS members for alleged involvement in the illicit trade of cigarettes.
“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,” said Phiyega, “Instead, they are alleged to have opted for a life of crime.”
A further 19 SAPS members were arrested in Limpopo for similar crimes which would most likely add to the 1,663 dismissals of police officers over just more than three years.
“We will deal with crime,” said Phiyega, “Whether inside or outside of the SAPS.”
More than 30 people had been arrested for crimes related to mall robberies and were, according to Phiyega, members of three different gangs in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
Numerous armed robberies across the country – namely in Gauteng and the Western Cape – had taken place in 2014 and earlier this year. In 2014, targets in the Western Cape included Vangate Mall in Athlone which was hit by three armed robberies, a jewellery store in Franschhoek, robberies at Canal Walk, the V&A Waterfront, one at Waterstone Village in Somerset West, and the robberies of Vodacom, King Pie, and Incredible Connection outlets at Paarl Mall. In 2015, Garden Centre in Mill Street was hit twice and Blue Route Mall in January.
Phiyega said the multi-disciplinary nature of task teams had ensured the arrests of suspects specifically targetting cellular and internet product stores.
That many of these suspects had been denied bail was, said Phiyega, encouraging for the police.
Police were now hoping to have the identities of suspects available for the public.
“We want the faces of criminals splashed on TV,” said Phiyega.
She added that the police continued to welcome and needed the public’s assistance in ensuring criminals were behind bars. – ANA