Cape petrol station killers ‘may have underestimated police response time’
An expert criminologist says it might be because of ratio of police to citizens in the burbs versus the Cape Flats
Perpetrators of a gruesome execution at a Cape Town southern suburbs petrol station may have underestimated the quick police deployment in the area compared with the Cape Flats.
This is according to Delano van der Linde, a criminology expert who recently completed a doctorate at Stellenbosch University in how legislation could be amended to give the law teeth in fighting gangsters.
The incident occurred on Saturday evening when three armed men approached a 46-year-old man waiting to fill his BMW with petrol in Kenilworth.
The man was shot a number of times and the incident was caught on CCTV cameras. Civilians chased the gunmen’s hijacked vehicle and alerted the police, who nabbed the suspects in Goodwood after shooting out their tyres.
Police have linked the case to Cape Flats gang warfare but have not yet named the victim of the execution.
“They [the perpetrators] could have believed that they would flee the scene quickly enough and avoid possible apprehension,” Van der Linde told Times Select on Monday.
“This could be due to the fact that they believed that the police would never be deployed that quickly.”
Arrests were made within minutes of the incident, and this is unusual in gang-related crimes. According to Van der Linde, “the incident had unique circumstances – such as being caught on camera, quick police response, as well as a high-speed chase”.
This reflected the police resources in the suburbs, and supported Equality Court findings in 2018 that “police resources were disproportionately low in poorer, black communities, in comparison to more affluent areas”.
The suburban context also raises the question of public awareness of gangsterism.
“It is an unfortunate reality that because so many incidents of gang violence occur in, for example, the Cape Flats, that many people feel that the incidents blur together,” said Van der Linde.
“This incident was somewhat unique given the fact that it was caught on camera and because of the quick police response time.”
In 2017-18, gang killings accounted for about 22% of all murders in the Western Cape, but this percentage goes up for the Cape Flats and down for the suburbs.
Van der Linde said in his research paper that while criminal gang activity is “not a recent phenomenon”, it intensified from the early 1990s. By the end of that decade, “gang membership had increased somewhere between 32% and 100%”.
“Certain estimates suggest that the cumulative gang membership ranges between 80,000 and 100,000 gang members in the Cape Flats alone,” said Van der Linde, “and it is believed that approximately 130 gangs (in various manifestations and factions) operate in this area and that one of these gangs, the Americans, has 5,000 members alone.”
Because of their size, infrastructure and influence, such “supergangs” may start operating as “international or transnational syndicates”.