South Africa

Crime is fuelling Hillbrow's economy, (IOL, 2006-03-14):-Dozens of gangs are using Hillbrow as an international headquarters of a multimillion rand drugs and crimes business that is fuelling an entire "second economy". Everything, from hard drugs, white collar crimes, prostitution to foreign currency exchange are driving this burgeoning economy, analysts and police say. And, according to researchers, many of the crimes are committed out of overcrowded, dilapidated hotels. This, coupled with the fact that there are more than 34 nationalities living in Hillbrow, is making crime fighting an arduous task in the area. Although there are no hard figures or statistics for Hillbrow's secondary economy, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies said it runs into millions of rands. According to Hillbrow police, West African syndicates are controlling large portions of Hillbrow's drug and white collar crimes. "These suspects deal a lot in counterfeit money, black-dollar and 419 scams," said Hillbrow police spokesperson Inspector Kriban Naidoo. "Besides this, we find that many of these people are using their legitimate businesses as fronts to commit other sorts of crime such as producing fake identity documents and passports," he said. Naidoo said that while police were cracking down on the sale of drugs and illegal firearms, which contributes to the high crime levels, they were also finding more cases where people are illegally trading in foreign currency. "There is an entire black market in Hillbrow where people are contravening the Foreign Exchange Act. People who come into the country and don't want to pay charges on their foreign money, come into Hillbrow and have it exchanged for less," he said. One of the major role players in Hillbrow's black market, police say, are the Nigerians, who have the monopoly of drugs and white collar crimes. "Recently, we have noticed that many Nigerians are moving away from selling drugs and are now concentrating on smarter crimes such as fraud," Naidoo said. Last week, three men were arrested for having more than R5 500 in counterfeit notes. Antony Altbeker, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies who recently published a book, The Dirty Work Of Democracy - A Year On The Streets With The SAPS, said that millions of rands are generated through Hillbrow's second economy every day. "I am not too sure whether we can call the people who control Hillbrow's underworld gangsters. Generally the idea of the gang revolves around the control of turf and I don't think that is a big factor in Hillbrow. There is a street-level drug trade and certain people dominate certain turfs but it is not like the Cape flats where one can't go from one place to another unless you are a member of the right gang," he said. Altbeker said that while there could be hundreds of different illicit trades being conducted in Hillbrow every day, narcotics is still the number one commodity. "This is primarily run on crack but there are lot of other drugs that move through it as well. Because of the nature of drug users, who want to support their habit, they will steal cellphones and cars, so dealers develop the networks to process stolen goods. A lot of the second economy revolves around that," he said. In addition to this, Altbeker said there is another layer to the black-market economy that is run on sex. According to a study published in the Institute for Security's Crime Quarterly, A Den Of Iniquity, in 2002, by Ted Legget, prostitution and the sale of drugs are predominantly run out of Hillbrow's sleazy hotels. According to the study, 27 percent of the women in Hillbrow openly admitted to prostitution. Many of the prostitutes have Nigerian pimps who also sell crack to their clients. Despite a series of networks Hillbrow criminals have built up over the past decade, police believe they are making an impact on the war against crime. "Every day we arrest people and every week we conduct major crime operations where we bust wanted criminals. We do have a holistic crime plan," said Naidoo. Just this weekend, Hillbrow police arrested 331 people during a raid. Naidoo said those arrested were wanted for crimes including assault, robbery and murder. "Of those arrested 117 were illegal immigrants. We also found 15 rounds of ammunition and a plastic bag containing cocaine," Naidoo said. Twenty-six cocaine rocks, 22 ecstasy tablets and 37 sachets of heroin were seized, and two illegal firearms were confiscated.  

South African Migration Project (SAMP) - Queen's University -