The Hawks — the police’s specialist crime-fighting unit that replaced the Scorpions — has been given the thumbs up by Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), and others after nearly a year in operation.
“Considering the manner in which the Scorpions were disbanded and the Hawks set up, it is surprising that they have managed to produce the results that they have,” Burger said to the Business Day. “The constraints placed on the Hawks by the Police Amendment Act must have been difficult. They were expected to merge the vastly different cultures of the SAPS and the Scorpions,” he said.
To describe the formation of the Hawks, Burger appropriated the quote of former police chief executive Meyer Kahn, who said “it was like trying to fix a bus full of people while it was running downhill”. “But, surprisingly, the Hawks have performed creditably,” Burger said. Hawks spokesman Musa Zondi said the formation of his unit was “a challenge” because it brought together a number of different units such as those dealing with cash-in-transit heists, drug crime and corruption. The Hawks now operated countrywide and were a 2500-strong force, the paper said.
“When the Scorpions were disbanded they were invited to reapply for jobs in the new unit. Some chose not to and some did not pass the strict vetting process.” Zondi said the Hawks had taken over 287 cases from the Scorpions. Recently the force had made some spectacular drug busts, including one last week that shut down a R100m tik manufacturing operation at Buccleuch in Johannesburg.
Commercial cases were by nature complicated, he said.
“Often money has been dispersed and it takes a lot of time and money to track money down through bank accounts,” Zondi said. “I feel that under the outstanding leadership of commissioner Anwa Dramat, the Hawks are realising their potential as a crack unit.”
Zondi’s sentiments were echoed by Grant Donnington, managing director of SBV, a cash transport company owned by the four big banks. “Since December, cash-in-transit heists are down 59% compared with the same December-to-March period last year. Attempted heists are down by 28%. Thanks to the Hawks, eight out of 10 of the top suspects have been arrested and are being kept in jail . I applaud the leadership qualities of Dramat and give him credit for the unit’s success,” Donnington said. SBV handled 95% of all bank branch cash transfers and 60% of ATM transfers, Donnington said.
Charles Godedema, also of the ISS, said he needed to know how many new cases the Hawks were solving before he could be sure how well they were working.