Rooting out extortion rackets in CT needs more direct police engagement - expert

Criminology expert Dr Simon Howell said that though police were calling on communities to report extortion-related matters, the extortion gangs still required direct engagement from authorities.

Khayelitsha police van. Picture: Lizell Persens/Eyewitness News

CAPE TOWN - Criminology expert Dr Simon Howell said that rooting out extortion rackets in Cape Town communities would require a lot more direct engagement from police.

This followed sporadic shootings in Khayelitsha over the weekend resulting in the death of 13 men, with five others seriously wounded. Eleven suspects have since been apprehended for questioning.

The shootings were reportedly linked to clashes regarding the "protection fees" of businesses in the township.

Howell said that though police were calling on communities to report extortion-related matters, the extortion gangs still required direct engagement from authorities.

"The gangs from which the individuals emerged or are related to were quite large so it's going to take quite a lot of work by the police to actually begin the engagement more broadly, especially as it has become more entrenched in the way that business has become conducted in the community now, so extortion is part and parcel of running a business."

He added that the issue had increasingly grown since the start of the hard lockdown.

"Extortion gangs have grown significantly since the end of the last lockdown because the lockdown affected everyone, including criminal elements, as such these people try and regroup their financial backing. We do need to figure out why people are doing this and if there's a means of engaging with them so that different lifestyles are chosen."

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