A drug-trafficking den with regular deals going down in the middle of a tranquil Port Elizabeth suburb has been uncovered following a three-week police stakeout.
The drug bust in Lorraine, and the arrest of two foreigners, have prompted a call to residents to monitor their surroundings and report any suspicious behaviour – even by homeowners and tenants of residential properties and complexes in the suburbs.
Lorraine Neighbourhood Watch chairman Peter Graham, whose team assisted with the bust, said it was a great example of teamwork between the police and residents.
“This is a prime example of how residents must assist with taking back our streets,” he said, without providing specifics.
“It is our duty to assist with rooting out criminal elements living among us in our suburbs.
“Our neighbourhood watch is very active and, in this case, we assisted greatly with the take-down operation.
“It is vital for people to record information and report any suspicious activity in the area they live in.
“We all want a safer area to live in and this is how we must do it.”
The two men, who were renting a townhouse in Sedan Avenue, were arrested on Tuesday and drugs worth about R65 000 – including 36 units of uncut cocaine, 500g of chlorine powder and two dagga capsules – and R70 000 in cash were allegedly found inside the home.
Police are now also looking into whether the two foreigners – aged 27 and 35 – are in South Africa legally.
The arrests come just days after drugs worth about R17.4-million were allegedly found inside two bakkies travelling to Port Elizabeth outside Cradock at the weekend.
Some 200 000 mandrax tablets and 486kg of dagga were seized and three men – aged 25, 27 and 45 – arrested.
Police are investigating a possible link between the occupants of the two bakkies, which were stopped within minutes of each other.
The bust was hailed as the largest in the Eastern Cape so far this year.
Meanwhile, police said yesterday there were doubts over whether the Lorraine suspects’ Home Affairs documentation was legitimate.
Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said the Lorraine bust was the result of an operation conducted by members of the Operational Command Centre (OCC).
The OCC was launched in Port Elizabeth last year as part of a national pilot project aimed at enhancing response times to tip-offs from residents.
“For three weeks, the suspected drug post was under surveillance and being monitored,” Naidu said.
“During this time, several suspected drug exchanges were done.
“On Tuesday, the police officers obtained a search warrant and raided the house, which led to the drug stash being found in various rooms of the house.
“Both men were detained and their VW Golf confiscated for [allegedly] being used in the transport of the drugs.” She said the men’s legal status in South Africa was also being investigated.
“Until otherwise proven, the men will also be charged for being in possession of false Home Affairs documentation.”
Naidu said drug dealers and peddlers were known for hiding in residential suburbs to fly under the radar and not arouse suspicion.
Asked about crime displacement, she said it was common practice for criminals to uproot their operations and move to another suburb when police were on to them.
“For this reason, we ask residents to alert us to anything suspicious happening in the vicinity so that we can act,” Naidu said.
Graham said every suburb had its problem areas.
“We know the drug dealers and criminals living in our area and we are working tirelessly with the police to gather information which will lead to their arrest,” he said.
Mount Road Cluster commander Major-General Funeka Siganga urged residents to report drug dealing as crime intelligence was vital if they were going to apprehend the druglords.
“Striving for a drug-free society is something we need to work on together,” she said.
“Port Elizabeth is not a drug haven and we will continue our battle against drug-trafficking and substance abuse.”
Anyone with information can contact 10111 or the Operational Command Centre directly on (041) 394-7516.