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Postby GOSA » Thu, 2006-10-26 18:25

22 October 2006

Elite units trained to stop violent criminals dead in their tracks

'We are hunting them down. I have given instructions that any person who points a firearm at members of our force must be shot'

FORGET traffic tickets - Gauteng's Metro Police have elite units ready to take on armed robbers.

Ninety police officers from Tshwane, Joburg and Ekurhuleni have undergone intensive training, using US SWAT-team methods, to respond to cash-in-transit heists and other armed robberies.

Police statistics released last month show Gauteng to be South Africa's violent crime capital, with 143 cash heists, 6890 car hijackings, 3068 business robberies and 5909 house robberies reported between April 2005 and March 2006.

Tshwane's elite unit will undergo training this month and Joburg's was established in August. Ekurhuleni's unit, which was established almost three years ago, was recently expanded.

The elite units are made up of officers who scored 90% or over in fitness, intelligence, running speed, physical reflexes and firearm handling tests - and who have no blemishes on their records.

Ekurhuleni Metro Police chief Robert McBride, who personally goes on patrol with his unit, said there was a lot to be done as "crime is too high". He said the units from the three Metros worked closely with each other and the South African Police Service.

"It is about tackling heavily armed criminals head-on. The possibility of people committing crime in Joburg and moving over to Ekurhuleni or vice versa will be dealt with.

"We are basically making the world small for criminals, which is why we are looking for people with discipline, who have shown pride in their uniforms.

"It is aggressive policing and we are getting results from the units in armed robberies, recovering stolen vehicles, hijacked vehicles and in arresting armed robbers.

"We are hunting them down. I have given instructions that any person who points a firearm at them must be shot."

McBride said his officers were trained by "people who have been in the old security forces" as well as by new instructors, particularly for combating heavily armed robbers and cash-heist gangs.

He said a lot of stress was placed on unit members to accurately fire at multiple targets while advancing on criminals - without injuring the public.

"Our idea is not to take cover and hope the criminals will go away. Where it is not possible to arrest them, we will use the necessary force to subdue them," he said.

The counter-assault techniques the officers have mastered have enabled groups of four to take on large gangs and win, said McBride.

"Our approach is high mobility, integration of communications systems and obviously a lot of training and retraining," he said.

Joburg Metro Police spokesman Wayne Minnaar said more officers would be sent for specialised training as they beefed up their unit.

"There has been an increase in serious crime so we had to do something to be able to fight that," said Minnaar.

Bedfordview Community Policing Forum head Marina Constas described the formation of the elite units as "a step in the right direction".

Judith Taylor of the Sandton Community Policing Forum agreed, saying she was glad the "understaffed" Metro Police had established the squads.

But Emily Fourie of the Motor Transport Workers' Union, which represents cash transport company employees, said the 30-member elite units from each of the three Metros would not be enough to deal with the problem of cash-in-transit heists.
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