Drug related crime up 87% since specialised unit was shut down
I will, tomorrow, write to the chairperson of Parliament's police committee to urge that the committee debates the reconstitution of specialised units, after statistics released last week showed shocking increases in crimes in areas effected by the closure of specialist units - and particularly given the 12% year-on-year increase in sexual offences, and 87% increase in drug related crime since the shutting down of the South African Narcotics Bureau (SANAB).
Though the minister has hinted at a return of the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) units, it is essential that he also recognises and acts on the drug crisis in South Africa - which has certainly been fuelled by the closure of the Narcotics Bureau. The year the unit was disbanded, the SAPS reported 62 689 drug related crimes (2003/2004), but the figure now stands at 117 172. While drug related crime was on a steady incline prior to the closure of this unit, the effects of the announcement of the Bureau's closure (2003) and its actual closure (2004) are clearly visible.
The closure of the Narcotics Bureau, much like the closure of other specialised, quasi-autonomous units, was undertaken as part of a drive to centralise control of the Police Service under Commissioner Jackie Selebi. SANAB was tasked with dealing with organised and specialised crime across the country, and though other units have attempted to fill the void its closure left, it is difficult to dispute what the commanding officer of the Bureau told Rapport newspaper shortly prior to the Bureau's closure: "This is a joyful day for drug dealers."
We thus need, as Parliament, to make sure that the issue of specialised units, and in particular the Narcotics Bureau, is placed back on our agenda, and we reiterate our call for Minister Nathi Mthethwa to reinstate an independent, autonomous, well equipped anti-drug unit.
We need specialised anti-drug squads based in all high drug-activity areas across South Africa, we need to ensure that we properly tackle drug trafficking and drug related crimes, and a dedicated unit like the Narcotics Bureau remains the most effective tool for achieving this. Beating drug abuse will go a long way towards building safe, prosperous communities in South Africa.
The ANC's one-size-fits all approach where power is centralised under the National Commissioner, to the detriment of specialised units, must be revisited. Though the minister has recently acknowledged the mistake that was made in shutting down the FCS units, he must go further, and revisit the Narcotics Bureau issue - an issue that has remained off the agenda for far too long.
Statement issued by Dianne Kohler Barnard, MP Democratic Alliance shadow minister of police, September 27 2009
Click here to sign up to receive our free daily headline email newsletter