Although the community has a major role to play in preventing the spread of gangsterism in the province, Operation Combat leader Major-General Jeremy Veary believes cutting gangs off from their recruitment base may cripple them in future.
At the 35th Crimestoppers International Conference in Cape Town this week, Veary said in impoverished areas many young men believe belonging to a gang is the only avenue for peerage available to them. But the Western Cape Police Cluster Commander believes there can be alternatives.
“Mitchells Plain [district] has 86 schools, of which fourteen are high-schools. It’s the largest concentration of schools anywhere in the province. This is the primary recruitment base for the gangs in Mitchells Plain.”
In a drive to show youngsters an alternative to belonging to gangs, the South African Police Service has for the last few years conducted drills at various schools in the Mitchells Plain area. Schoolgoing children, the main target of gangs for recruitment, are shown they can have pride in their uniforms, and instead find pride in unity among their school peers.
“We target very specific schools where certain gangs recruit from. We work with the schools’ life skills teachers who feel that in order to instill a sense of discipline and pride in their uniforms, we should bring our drilling expertise to the table,” Veary said.
“This is [us] developing alternative forms of peerage, alternative forms that youth can identify with pride, rather than being a member of a gang.” VOC