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Western Cape has a gun problem, says Plato

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Mostly young men use a firearm to commit a crime in certain parts of the Western Cape, and only one in five are likely to be convicted.

These were some of the findings of a study – conducted by the provincial community safety department – released on Sunday.

Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said the province had a gun problem which needed to be addressed.

He said gang killings were “completely out of control”.

“Many communities are kept hostage by a gun.”

As part of a request by the Civilian Secretariat of Police, the province was asked to look at firearm-related dockets at four police stations between 1999 and 2014.

Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Paarl East and Worcester were chosen.

Sloppy police investigation

The research also looked at the implementation of the Firearms Control Act.

A study of these stations’ case dockets found a firearm was used to attempt to kill someone (attempted murder) in a fifth of all cases.

Plato said they found that an overwhelming majority of perpetrators were male and that almost three-quarters were between 18 and 35 years old.

Most crimes involving a firearm in these areas were committed on Sundays and Fridays.

It took an average of 474 days to convict criminals who had used a firearm.

In just under 40% of cases, charges were withdrawn against the accused.

“Far, far too many of our criminals that are supposed to be in jail are not in jail. They are still roaming the streets,” Plato said.

He said this could be due to sloppy police investigation, a lack of evidence or because people were too scared to testify.

The study acknowledged several limitations, including a small sample of police precincts and the fact that police statistics did not provide a breakdown of gun-related crimes.

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