Ghost squad puts brakes on drag racing

Cape Argus

Reporter: Fouzia van der Fort

A crowd of about 100 people who gathered to watch an illegal drag race in Montague Gardens last night were in for a nasty surprise – members of the city’s Ghost Squad blocked off surrounding roads, inspected their cars and arrested two people for taking part in the dangerous event. The race was held in Railway Road in Montague Gardens late last night, and saw souped-up cars lining up against each other in 500m dashes. But after the excitement and adrenaline of the race, it was back to reality for the crowd: the Ghost Squad, an elite unit created by the city to crack down on traffic offences, waited at all exit point to prevent the illegal racers from escaping unpunished. Their cars’ blue lights flashing, members of the Ghost Squad stopped and checked vehicles for defects, asked to see drivers’ licences and looked for any drivers who were drunk. Some drivers tried to evade capture, turning desperate U-turns when they realised the squad was waiting for them, but they were unsuccessful. Some, who had actually taken part in the races, fled the area on foot, but the Ghost Squad managed to arrest two. One of the racers was tracked to him home in Richwood and arrested in front of his unsympathetic father. “I warned him,” the young man’s father told officers. “We got witnesses and have him on camera,” the officer explained. On their way to the police station to have the young man charged, the Ghost Squad’s officers arrested a man for drunk driving after he swerved between traffic and drove straight through a red light. Chief inspector Merle Lourens, spokeswoman for the city’s traffic department, said several fines were issued during last night’s operation, including 13 for driving without a driver’s licence. Ten vehicles were taken off the road as they were unroadworthy and six for having outstanding clearance certificates. Cape Town Traffic’s Keven Jacobs said this morning that authorities go out on operations “as and when the need arises”. He said they often received complaints from members of the public about racing in specific areas and that the frequently used race locations were well known. He said details of the squad’s operations were covert so as not to jeopardise their strategy. “We generally don’t speak about our methods in these operations because the drag racing net is so wide that we cannot risk them finding out about it,” Jacobs said.