505 gunshots in nine days in heart of Cape Town gangland

12 April 2018 - 15:12 By Aron Hyman
A rise in sporadic gun battles in gang hotspots in the Cape Flats has prompted calls by authorities for the army intervention, as the police battle for control.
A rise in sporadic gun battles in gang hotspots in the Cape Flats has prompted calls by authorities for the army intervention, as the police battle for control.
Image: PIETER BAUERMEISTER / AFP

An expanding network of robotic ears and eyes is helping law enforcement in some of Cape Town’s most troubled suburbs to fight gang violence‚ but bullets are still flying in huge numbers.

The city council ShotSpotter system detected an “unprecedented” spike in shooting incidents over the first nine days of April.

Sensitive listening devices placed strategically across seven square kilometres covering Manenberg and Hanover Park triangulate gunshots with pinpoint accuracy.

They detected 176 shooting incidents involving 505 gunshots over the first nine days of the month. Some 90% of these incidents took place in Manenberg.

The city has expanded the system to add CCTV footage so that as soon as a shot is detected cameras can zoom in on the positions to film the individuals responsible.

The city’s safety and security directorate said on Thursday its strategic surveillance unit had handed nearly 10 gigabytes of video footage of these incidents to detectives to help their investigations.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said R12-million had been spent on the system in the current financial year‚ but limited police resources and a “limited response” were obstacles that needed to be overcome.

“There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of shooting incidents in the last two weeks. One of our challenges has been getting officers to the scene of shooting incidents detected by ShotSpotter‚” said Smith.

“We said at the outset that the efficacy of the system would rely heavily on cooperation from the South African Police Service.”

It was hoped that increased use of CCTV footage to identify gunmen and track down suspects would help the police to increase the odds of a conviction.

“Everything is about convictions‚ and unless there are convictions we will not improve the gang situation on the Cape Flats‚” said Smith.

“Just last week‚ we had a case where a suspect was positively identified from CCTV and arrested shortly after. That arrest was for attempted murder‚ but he was also a suspect in a murder case just the day before.”

ShotSpotter is imported from the US and was piloted in the Kruger National Park before being introduced in Manenberg and Hanover Park in 2016.

According to a city press release‚ between March 1 and April 9‚ metro police officers took part in 77 operations in Hanover Park and Manenberg with SAPS and other city enforcement agencies. They arrested 67 suspects on charges ranging from drug possession to murder.


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