Pubdate: Sat, 15 Nov 2003
Source: Natal Witness, The (South Africa)
Copyright: 2003 The Natal Witness.


Drug-related crime in Durban has been hit hard by a specialist court
and a team of investigators that focus on West African nationals.

The court, which deals only with drug-related cases, has achieved a
96% conviction rate since it was established at the beginning of 2003.

The person behind the initiative, senior public prosecutor Mark Dyson,
said the court has finalised more than 1 000 cases in 10 months, which
is "probably more than any other court in the country".

Dyson was speaking at a briefing entitled Turning the Tide on Crime
organised by Durban-based non-governmental organisation IPT. The
briefing highlighted a number of success stories in the criminal
justice system in KwaZulu-Natal.

Before the court was established at the beginning of this year,
drug-related cases were treated in the same manner as other criminal
matters. The cases are now dealt with in a single court by a
specialist prosecutor and magistrate.

Although the drug court is one of about 10 district courts in the
Durban area, it finalises more than half of the total number of cases
completed in those courts.

Dyson said the court works closely with detectives to ensure that
investigations are prosecutor-driven. In addition, a close
relationship with the Asset Forfeiture Unit has resulted in the
seizure of buses, cars, houses and a farm.

"We have made inroads into every level of syndicates and drug
trafficking from the street peddlers to the drug lords. In fact, the
court has developed a formidable reputation in the drug industry and
we are told that dealers are nervous of appearing in our court," Dyson

The court is used by investigators from Operation West, which targets
West African crime syndicates. Operational commander Detective
Inspector Barney Dreyer said West African nationals are responsible
for 80% of all drug trafficking in Durban and control 100% of the drug
trade in Durban's Point area.

Dreyer's team work closely with role players including the Asset
Forfeiture Unit, the Department of Home Affairs, the eThekwini
municipality and the Department of Labour. Since the inception of the
unit about 18 months ago, over R18 million worth of drugs has been
seized and 797 people have been arrested by the unit's 20 members. The
unit has achieved a 96% success rate in the 40 cases finalised so far.
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