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'Gang recruitment under control'

Police are adamant that child recruitment into gangs is under control.

The Cape Flats. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Police are adamant the practice of gangs recruiting children into their ranks is under control.

At least 16 teenagers in some of the province's most gang-riddled communities have been arrested for murder, attempted murder and the unlawful possession of firearms since the beginning of this year.

But the police's Thembinkosi Kinana said, "The police are aware of these incidents where children get recruited to criminal activities. I must, however, indicate that the criminal elements are not winning."

At the same time, some Hanover Park gangsters say the two main reasons they recruit youngsters is so they can sell drugs and in some cases, carry out killings on rival members.

Members of the Islanders, a branch of the notorious Americans gang, claim to have recruited more than a dozen youth this month alone.

One gang recruiter told Eyewitness News why they are on the hunt for high school pupils specifically.

"I won't expect a 'small lightie' to come and shoot me because he's walking in a school uniform. But then when he comes close he can pull out a gun and shoot someone dead."

He says the recruits often sell drugs at schools and, if need be, hide weapons on behalf of the gangs in their homes.

He also claims that youngsters are not forced to join gangs and do so at their own will.

Meanwhile, a community-led programme launched in Hanover Park to curb gang-related violence says it has already seen some success.

The Ceasefire Campaign claims gang-related activity has gone down significantly since the programme was launched in the area at the beginning of this year.

Crayven Engel, who spearheads the project, says they have also started monitoring gang activity at schools.

He says it comes after a call from concerned parents who fear gangsters are zoning in on their children.

"We've been helping out a couple of high schools over the last year. We visit and monitor the schools and stay on the border to make sure they don't recruit or intimidate the youngsters."