Slow but steady gains made in the fight against drugs

As the United Nations marks International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, the City has made a number of gains on various fronts including enforcement, treatment and prevention.

The City continues to increase its focus on the issue of drug abuse. It has, in recent years, implemented a strategy that cuts across a number of directorates, with the aim of clamping down on the drug trade, but also increasing access to treatment and running a number of preventative campaigns.

From an enforcement perspective, the Gang and Drug Task Team residing within the Metro Police Department has confiscated just over 68 000 units of drugs with a street value of nearly R2,4 million since July 2013. During the same period, 3 846 suspects were arrested for drug-related offences. The bulk of the confiscations and arrests were made in Manenberg, Hanover Park, Elsies River, Steenberg and Kraaifontein.

‘These statistics do not include the successes by our other enforcement agencies, but the Metro Police Department accounts for the bulk of our enforcement. The figures for the current financial year are slightly lower than the previous year because we have been side-tracked by land invasions and protests. However, this is still nothing to sneeze at when one considers that we have but a fraction of the resources compared with our South African Police Service counterparts. We have also started employing a more intelligence-driven approach, with the help of community members, and it is paying dividends. Ultimately, however, we need to see an improvement in the criminal justice because far too often we find that we’re arresting familiar faces,’ says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

The United Nations established International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking to remind member states of their commitment to creating an international society free from drug abuse. The City recognises the overwhelming need for access to treatment and has established six substance abuse treatment sites since 2008 – with the latest having opened in Manenberg earlier this year.

Between July 2011 and June 2014, 4 311 people sought help at the City Health substance abuse treatment sites in Tafelsig, Khayelitsha, Delft South, Milnerton and Parkwood. The gender breakdown mirrored that of the Medical Research Council, with an approximate 76% male/24% female split. The most common substances that clients had been using were crystal methamphetamine (tik), dagga, alcohol and heroin.

‘Our treatment sites accommodated the highest number of clients of any service provider in the province between July and December last year and this proves a number of things. Firstly, it underscores the great need for treatment, but also speaks to the quality of services that clients have access to when they enrol in our Matrix-accredited programme,’ says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli.

The City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Directorate has been driving preventative initiatives through its Substance Abuse Programme, including the Strengthening Families Project, Soft Skills prevention programme in schools and the ‘Be Smart, Don’t Start’ theatre campaign. In this financial year, the various projects reached an audience of more than
23 000 – the bulk of them young school children.

‘Children are being exposed to substance abuse at a young age and so we have had to develop and implement programmes that speak directly to them. This is why the bulk of our interventions are done at primary school level. The topics are often hard-hitting, but we can’t afford to be in denial about the realities that our children are dealing with. The impact of our interventions is often not as explicit as the enforcement efforts, but becomes apparent in the medium to long term when we see positive behavioural changes in children and youth once considered to be at risk, as well as the change in the social fabric of communities considered high-risk or vulnerable to abuse,’ says the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Social Development and Early Childhood Development, Councillor Suzette Little.

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