Gangsters relocating to smaller cities, towns
Port Elizabeth gangsters are moving to smaller towns across the Eastern Cape and Garden Route in a bid to expand their operations and recoup losses due to police clampdowns.
Police said yesterday they had seen progressive crime displacement since January, as known Port Elizabeth gangsters and gangs moved to smaller cities and towns including Knysna, George, Humansdorp, Jeffreys Bay, Storms River, Grahamstown and East London.
Since October, an estimated R530 000 in “drug money” and R500 000 worth of drugs have been confiscated during a series of raids on Port Elizabeth gang dens.
The latest bust comes after a 24-year-old suspected gangster linked to the Spotbouers gang, who has been on the run for 11 months, was nabbed hiding out in Humansdorp.
The arrest followed a tip-off that a prime suspect in a double attempted murder was hiding out there.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said the man was wanted for allegedly shooting rival gang members – believed to be from the China Gang – in June last year.
During the bust on Tuesday night, police found R80 000 in cash and R96 600 worth of drugs hidden in wall cavities of the house.
The clampdown on crime in the northern areas comes after the launch of Operation Lockdown in February last year, solely aimed at gang activity.
This was followed by the launch in October of the country’s first Operational Control Centre (OCC), which aims to tackle specific crime-ridden areas.
Due to the successes, the OCC is now being rolled out countrywide. In the first six months of Operation Lockdown, R2-million worth of drugs was seized and about 600 people arrested for gang or drug crimes.
In addition, five handgrenades, 85 firearms with 1 000 rounds of ammunition, and 29 toy guns were seized.
Gang unit officials said pressure on gangsters by police had meant that gang operations needed to expand to recoup loses.
“The fact is as police we are denting their businesses and they are losing a lot of money,” one police officer, who declined to be named due to working with the gangs, said.
The officer said the larger gangs were feeling the pinch, forcing them to expand to other towns.
Deputy director of public prosecutions Advocate Indra Goberdan said they were already prosecuting some out-of-town gang cases.
Mount Road Cluster OCC commander Brigadier Keith Meyer, whose jurisdiction includes the northern areas, said the movement of gangs to outlying towns had been expected.
“They first moved to various suburbs across the Bay in an attempt to flee. Now they are moving to different towns to escape and regroup to build their businesses,” he said.