Death toll in Bay gang violence stands at 117: The Herald

DA demands return of specialised anti-gang and narcotics units

MORE than 110 people have died in gang violence in Nelson Mandela Bay in the past two years, it was revealed yesterday. Responding to questions by DA MPL Bobby Stevenson, Eastern Cape Safety and Security MEC Helen Sauls- August said 61 people had died in gang violence between April 2012 and March last year and 56 between April last year and February 26. This included prison gang violence.

While it is not clear how many of those killed were innocent bystanders caught in gang crossfire, at least three children have been killed or wounded in recent months.

On Saturday, Neilon Peters, 5, was shot in the face while walking to his bedroom in his Jenniker Street, Arcadia, home.

He is recovering in the Livingstone Hospital. Another young girl, Samantha Felix, 9, was wounded after being shot in the shoulder while playing in the garden of a Helenvale house in January. In December, Estelle Valentine, 13, died after she was shot while walking home from a shop in Helenvale.

Asked whether police had a grip on the gang violence which has spread from the northern areas to other parts of the Bay, Sauls-August said that a gang task team had been established to address it.

“The South African Police Service is sufficiently resourced to deal with this problem,” she said.

But the task team – established under the command of Port Elizabeth cluster commander General Dawie Rabie – has been unable to make breakthroughs in some cases, most notably that in which three alleged gang members were gunned down while driving along the beachfront last month.

Stevenson has now asked for the return of the specialised anti-gang unit and narcotics bureau disbanded by former police commissioner Jackie Selebi.

“Specialised units with a national footprint are necessary to eradicate this scourge of gangsterism and drugs in our province. Gangsters and drugs are linked to organised crime that is connected across the country,” Stevenson said.

Provincial police spokeswoman Brigadier Marinda Mills said they were concerned about the high incidence of crime in the Bay.

“The SAPS has responded by dealing with factors, primarily drugs, that cause gangsterism to prosper, mainly through visible policing, the detective service and the Hawks.”

She said 18 suspected gangsters had been arrested for drug dealing as part of the recent Operation Graffiti.

“These types of operations will continue and . . . our combating of gangs will be intensified,” Mills said.