The recruitment of schoolchildren into the gang life is on the rise, with police warning that children as young as 12 are peddling drugs at school.
This came to light in an interview with gang unit members recently, with police explaining the web of organised crime and how Port Elizabeth gangs are expanding their operations across Nelson Mandela Bay and other Eastern Cape towns.
In May, at least 10 people were murdered and 15 wounded as a result of gang shootings in the northern areas.
The veteran gang unit detectives said gang leaders had restrategised, with the goal of destroying alliances between rival gangs to weaken the competition and even recruit their members.
“What we are seeing now is a power play, but also an internal dispute between gangs and their alliances,” one of the detectives said.
“Part of the power play is recruitment.
“Recruiting schoolchildren gives you an endless supply of bodies and helps push drugs into the schools.
“There is money in schools and once the children are hooked, they will, over time, be recruited into the gangs.
“We have seen children as young as 12 who are already part of a gang.”
They said the dynamics had changed, with the younger gang members more triggerhappy in an attempt to prove their loyalty to the leaders.
“Youngsters are more likely to evade arrest because they are children.
“We have arrested schoolchildren who have been transporting firearms in their backpacks for the gangsters.
“They are the peddlers and, if they comply, the gangs will give them more responsibility,” another detective