Task team ready to serve, protect Westbury

A 143-member South African Police Services (SAPS) task team has been deployed to the troubled Westbury, following community complaints of gangsterism and drug peddling.

Parading the team to the community on Thursday, Police Minister Bheki Cele said the team's first task was to track down and arrest 20 suspects allegedly reigning terror on the community.

The complaints culminated with residents last week taking to the streets, demanding government and police intervention. Cele, accompanied by the national and provincial police leadership, on Tuesday engaged with the community and announced measures aimed at dealing with the complaints.

Among the suspects to be hunted down by the task team are alleged murderers, rapists, thieves and drug lords. Cele said some of the alleged killers were wanted for more than one murder.

There is a top 20 list now. It will be given to you. That list simply says to you: firstly, go knock at the door, if nobody opens, please kick down the door. We want these criminals.

[For] drug lords: you go to their doors and knock, if they don't open, kick it down. We want them, Cele said.

Ten members of the task team will be responsible for intelligence gathering. Cele said he hoped there would be no animosity between the task team and the community as efforts were made to bring peace in the area.

We are here to work with this community. We are here to protect them. We are here to arrest the drug lords. We are here to arrest murderers. We are here to arrest thieves. We are here to arrest rapists. Please protect the community, he said.

There will be no space for criminals in this community anymore. We'll squeeze them and make sure that they get out of this community. And as they get out, they must go to prison. We are making that promise here. You wanted the special team. I hope you've all the reason to accept and receive them, you wanted them.

The Minister dared criminals in the area to test the strength and resolve of the task team. Come and face us, he said.

The task team is largely made up of members from the SAPS' Tactical Response Team. The Johannesburg Metro Police Department, SAPS visible policing, K9 unit, as well as the national intervention unit which also forms part of the deployed team.

All those people, we don't give them rubber bullets, we give them the real stuff. We are making a plea to the gangsters: come. If you don't come on the street [to face the task team], we'll get you where you are. If you don't come to us, we'll come to you. We are sick and tired, he warned criminals.

Crime statistics reveal that 33 people were killed during the 2017/18 financial year in this area. This was three bodies less than the previous year. Cele revealed that 15 people had been murdered in Westbury in the current financial year, 2018/19.

The team will be based in the area permanently but the situation would be regularly assessed.

National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole said the move to deploy the task team was an indication that the government and the SAPS were taking the safety of the communities very seriously.

At the same time, we want to work with the communities in this area to achieve this, he said.

Source: South African Government News Agency

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