Archive for the ‘Reality check’ Category

The Western Cape has a gang problem (for many, many years) , they rule the streets in the Cape flats and their power comes from fear , drugs , violence , money and poverty. There have been many efforts to deal with this and every single one has failed, you have ex-gang members addressing the youth, police action groups, community meetings and govt assistance to no effect. The problem is getting worse.

The gangs are endemic in these communities, the picture looks bleak and it’s going to get bleaker. Firstly everything that has been tried to address the situation is not going to magically remedy the problem if it didn’t work the first 5 times.  Second the province is in the administration of the opposition so national govt support will not be freely forth coming; they are simply not going to aid their opponents in scoring political victories. Our politics isn’t quite there yet. Next the gangs and members and leadership will react to any actions they see and know are a threat and they will prosecute their response in the means they know how through violence, intimidation and terror.

Now here is when you really not going to like what you hear, what to do about it.

Firstly, the communities need to acknowledge that the gangsters are not aliens or imports. These, particularly boys are from the communities which they live. It’s your sons, brothers, cousins and husbands. It means tough love for those in your family to stop them from getting involved in gangs and getting them out of gangs. If your 14yr old son comes home with a new iphone 5 when he has no job or means of income then you need to act immediately and contact the authorities.  Rather deal with a misdemeanour now than a murder charge later.  The message should be that there is no shelter and protection at home from drug and gang involvement, it’s a clear boundary on what is and isn’t tolerated. You are not protecting them you are enabling them and as such endangering the rest of family and neighbours.  If this isn’t done, the game is lost and the gangs win. Evil preys on your good nature, remember that.  Understand what you are getting into, it’s a war. You and the community are entering a war, not only between gangs but with authorities and now you. People will be hurt, killed and families torn apart. It’s happening now anyway whether you choose to be or not. Rather not deny or not think about it but focus on the objective; a safe and secure free community.

Once you have established clear moral boundaries at home and in the community as well as the will to address it then you can move onto a strategy for combating the problem.

Objectives, fairly easily it’s to rid the areas and communities from gangs.

Strategy is this, first thing is intelligence.  Find out everything you can about the gangs. Who they are, who are gang members and who are the leaders, find out the organisational structures and how they finance and arm themselves. Find out about the cultures and relationships as well as symbols, signs, history of the gangs and how they communicate. This must be second hand knowledge to everyone and any changes must also be known and communicated. This will expose both their weaknesses and strengths.

One of the mistakes has been to attack/address the drug problem first, the extent of the drug problem is a result of the gangs so they simply adapt and re-emerge. Go straight for the gangs and the drug problems will be far easier to tackle.

The over arching strategy is, Suppression, Intervention and Prevention as a comprehensive model.

Suppression, this involves actively taking on gangs through the authorities and intelligence services. Essentially the objective here is to take down the structures and power of the gangs. Here the strategy is head and heart as attack points. Gangs have leaders and so they need to be removed from influence, this means looking at the structures and specifically targeting key leaderships so that the entire structure is becomes untenable. This must be co-ordinated so as that one gang simply doesn’t fill the void left by another. Things like sending these gang leaders to prisons to another province and away from his sphere of influence and ability to communicate. Once the head is severed then the window to attack the heart of the gang is open for assault.  The heart of gangs is the ‘family’ culture and protection it provides, so here you want to bring in key individuals while the head is off and they are unprotected, break this down before they can restructure.  This can involve deals as well as playing off one gang against another (your gang is weak , the others will get you). Isolate and pressure and dissolve the decision making structures at the mid-level. These operations must be conducted with extreme prejudice, for the first time a real sense of fear from authorities must be present to provide credible leverage and entice co-operation. If effective then reaction and retaliation would be prevented and intervention can occur.

Intervention is a program of picking up individual members particularly the youth and placing them in various programs outside of the community and away for a significant time. This is offering training and development over incarceration, not only that but imprisonment outside of the gangs sphere of influence and not the established holiday with your friends that prison provides gang members now. (You’re going to a Mpumalanga prison where you know no-one). Outreach and a number of other programs can be used in this phase.

Prevention, this phase can be applied from the start but most effectively when the threat level from gangs is low. It is essentially preventing further kids from going into gangs so improving school engagement and performance, fostering positive attitudes towards police, and changing youths’ perceptions about gangs. This involves the formation of clubs, groups and sports as positive alternatives. Getting parents actively involved in school and extra-curricular activities.  Getting teens into part time employment roles and exposing them to the world beyond the community they live. Lastly paint, lots of paint and equipment. Painting over the symbols and graffiti related to the gangs and the culture. Getting the community improve the aesthetics of their neighbourhoods like picking up trash , painting walls , clearing drainage and gutters so that a visible improvement takes place . Success breeds success , if the crime goes down business moves in and development starts to localise and opportunities start become more abundant and it’s not necessarily sought outside so that the inevitability of peoples prospects improve.

Here is the biggest hurdle; scale. The scale of the problem is enormous, some 100 000 gang members in the WC and only 16 628 police officers.  Without  almost complete community cooperation and involvement, it will only metastasize further and deep the problem. Govt and police ect alone have no chance of dealing with this, not out of lack of effort or empathy but merely scale and resources.

Gangs, drugs and crime are a cycle. Breaking the cycle tends to require sharp and swift intervention followed by sustained action.  It cannot also be achieved by the actions of authorities alone, it requires both leadership from the communities, govt and police.

PS: If you glorify the gang culture , your part of the problem .