Death threats fail to rat­tle elite ‘ghosts’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - LEILA SAMODIEN

THE CITY of Cape Town’s elite “ghost squad” is fac­ing a bar­rage of hos­til­ity – and even death threats.

But the team has brushed the threats aside, at­tribut­ing the an­tag­o­nism to the unit’s “tremendous suc­cess”.

In­stead, the unit plans to dou­ble its team of traf­fic of­fi­cers and its ve­hi­cle fleet by as early as next month.

The ve­hi­cles will all be un­marked – the squad’s trade­mark.

The unit al­ready has five cars – four Golf GTIs, and a Opel As­tra – and six 1300cc Honda mo­tor­cy­cles.

How­ever, unit head Lance Crow­ster said they would ex­pand the fleet to in­clude ve­hi­cles of dif­fer­ent makes, mod­els, shapes and colours that would make it harder for peo­ple to iden­tify them.

He said a fur­ther 13 traf­fic of­fi­cers would join the unit next month.

“Af­ter that, we’ll prob­a­bly look at in­creas­ing the squad’s num­bers again.”

Crow­ster praised his team for their “zero tol­er­ance” ap­proach to law en­force­ment, as well as their fear­less­ness, es­pe­cially in the face of nu­mer­ous death threats on the in­ter­net since the unit’s in­cep­tion in July.

All threats have so far ap­peared on the so­cial net­work­ing site Face­book. There are at least two groups on the site, each with hun­dreds of mem­bers, slam­ming the ghost squad.

“We’ve re­ceived death threats,” said a squad mem­ber, “but that has only made us more de­ter mined to do our jobs.”

All of­fi­cers are armed and have had spe­cialised train­ing.

Squad mem­bers de­clined to be named, out of con­sid­er­a­tion for their safety and that of their fam­i­lies, in light of the death threats.

An­other warned that the team was plan­ning to take le­gal action against any­one who made threats against them.

On Face­book there are two groups: “Street Rac­ers vs Ghost Squad” and “Let’s do some­thing about the ghost squad in Cape Town”. They have 1 143 and 430 mem­bers re­spec­tively.

Some mem­bers of the smaller group made the bold­est com­ments, say­ing the unit was “play­ing with fire” by try­ing to stop drag-racing and sug­gest­ing peo­ple “put out a hit on them” and “shoot the f**kers”.

One mem­ber of “Street Rac­ers vs Ghost Squad” asked for pho­to­graphs of the of­fi­cers to be posted on the site – an­other user obliged, and now there are sev­eral on the site.

Some mem­bers sug­gested the money used to es­tab­lish the ghost squad could be used to “get mur­der­ers and rapists off the street” and pro­vide homes for the poor.

One user sug­gested that since the squad’s cars were un­marked, it would make it dif­fi­cult for road users to iden­tify ac­tual of­fi­cers from fakes.

But Crow­ster as­sured peo­ple that ghost squad mem­bers wore uni­forms on duty.

PIC­TURE: MXOLISI MADELA

ROAD WAR­RIORS: Ghost squad traf­fic cops, who use un­marked ve­hi­cles, ques­tion a taxi driver on the N2 near the Van­guard Drive turn-off due to sus­pected over­load­ing.

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