As 186 firearms were confiscated within a month that also saw a 4-year-old girl shot and wounded in Hanover Park, police hope that imbizos with local communities will assist in catching criminals.
A day after the child was shot while playing in the park outside her home in Algoa Court, Hanover Park, police at Philippi police station carried out an imbizo to gain the trust of residents, in the pursuit of a suspect.
Rafiek Jooste, 20, was subsequently arrested on March 26 and made his first appearance at the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Monday where his case was postponed to April 6 for bail proceedings.
The child’s family, who cannot be identified to protect her identity, said she was shot in the left eye and had completely lost sight in that eye. She also had surgery on her right eye to relieve swelling and to prevent infection.
Her aunt said she was expected to undergo a second operation but doctors were still performing tests. The child had opened her right eye last week.
“The bullet has not been removed yet and she opened up her right eye,” she said.
“We are so grateful to God.”
Captain Lance Goliath, police spokesperson at Philippi police station, and station commander Colonel Adriaan Saulse carried out an imbizo in the area just hours after the shooting.
Goliath said they held imbizos every week in different areas in their precinct.
He added part of the imbizos was to educate residents about crime scenes.
“We cannot fight crime if we do not have the co-operation from the community. Often when police come to crime scenes, we find children as young as 2 years old there and they are prematurely being exposed to crime,” said Goliath.
“The aim of these imbizos is to engage with communities and to gain their trust and after all, this is where our witnesses are. We hand out pamphlets to educate them on domestic violence and the risks of joining of gangs.
“Often we find people contacting us with vital information which can secure arrests or finding firearms and drugs.”
The Philippi/Hanover Park Community Policing Forum chairperson Ebrahim Abrahams said the war against gangsterism was challenging because gang leaders were not being arrested and gunmen were being set free.
They handed a letter of their grievances to the police last week.
“We as the Philippi/Hanover Park Community Police Forum condemn the recent shooting of a 4-year-old girl from Hanover Park. We live in great pain and agony as we witness the deaths of young, innocent children and others, lucky enough to survive, living with the trauma caused by their upbringing in a neighbourhood which is being torn apart by gang-related violence,” read the letter.
The letter also lists demands such as an investigation into why crime levels have not declined since the deployment of 80 newly-trained participants of the Law Enforcement Advancement Program (LEAP).
They have also requested that the city fix the 150 street lights in Hanover Park as crime thrives in darkness.
The forum called for an urgent meeting with the management of LEAP and SAPS.
“We are calling for a thorough investigation into why shooters can be seen walking amongst our children, just hours after being arrested for drug-dealing, murder or being in possession of an illegal firearm.”
Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said that 186 firearms and 3 058 rounds of ammunition had been confiscated in the past month.
“A total of 3 868 suspects have been arrested for contact crimes, which are often associated with weapons, such as murder, attempted murder, assault, and robbery during the same period,” said Traut.
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