Bo-Kaap residents reach out to private security

Residents of the Bo-Kaap at a meeting with P.I. Services to talk about their safety.

Residents of Bo-Kaap met with P.I. Services last Wednesday to discuss their safety in the area, which has seen an increase in petty crime.

About 80 people attended the meeting at St Paul’s church hall, where they discussed potential security measures between Buitengracht and Military roads.

According to resident Megan Kassiem, who arranged for the security company to meet with community, the number of criminal incidents is increasing during the day and night.

“Cars are being broken into, they stole a rug off a washing line and they robbed foreign students of their cellphones. A car was also stolen recently and it’s happening at all hours of the day,” said Ms Kassiem.

“We are aware of the criminal elements that come from Erf 81 but we can’t just blame the homeless people as there are delinquents that are from the Bo-Kaap. We know who some of them are and it’s a sad situation,” she said.

According to Ms Kassiem, there are 168 households interested in establishing a security presence, which could cost R392 per month per home.

“We also spoke to small businesses so hopefully they can come on board. We definitely need more visibility and we have to start somewhere. It’s a big area but the security company will introduce a strategy of how they will work,” she said.

Ward 77 councillor Francine Higham said residents had approached her about their safety concerns, and she had referred them to SAPS, Law Enforcement, Metro Police, and raised the issue at the monthly CPF meeting.

“It is critical that residents immediately report all crimes or by-law infringements directly to the authorities and that they open cases with SAPS when they have experienced a crime. Resources are deployed based on crime statistics and if crimes aren’t reported then the authorities won’t have the data to make the informed decisions about where to deploy safety resources,” said Ms Higham.

She added that the National Department of Defence owned and was responsible for Erf 81, which was illegally occupied by homeless people.

“There is already a 24-hour deployment of SANDF personnel monitoring this property. Unfortunately, national government have not invested in the necessary fencing and lighting around this property to ensure that the site is completely secure and to prevent criminals accessing the property, especially at night,” she said.

Part of the problem, said volunteer community worker Erefaan Ramjam, was that people were not reporting crimes. He also believed that some of the people living on the streets were ex-offenders who were creating problems.

“People are despondent. They complain about the tents in Buitengracht Street and other problems and nothing is being done about it. Students are being harassed by some of these homeless people. Another student was robbed and he moved to Green Point because of the vagrants being intimidating,” said Mr Ramjam.

“I’ve called Law Enforcement to inform them of issues happening in the area but they don’t respond. SAPS has a shortage of staff so they don’t respond immediately and the neighbourhood watch is mostly active on the other side of Bo-Kaap. So private security is needed,” he said.

Bo-Kaap Neighbourhood Watch chairman, Ebrahiem Christians, said they had reached out to residents about how to secure their area.

“People are too lazy to look after their property and we approached residents but most are not willing to do the work, they also don’t report crimes or lay charges at SAPS.” said Mr Christians.

He believes that the tourism department should provide security in the Bo-Kaap to protect the tourists as well as the residents.

“We’re gaining nothing from tourism and there was a safety tour ambassador programme a few years ago but that was stopped,” he said.

“Look there’s always been crime in Bo-Kaap but people must not give the criminals an opportunity for crime, especially visitors that leave things in their cars, so who should provide security for these visitors.”

Daniel Van Zyl, chief operations manager at P.I. Services says that the turnout at the meeting proved that there is a need for a security company.

“I always thought the Bo-Kaap was a quiet area but at the meeting I heard about the problems they are experiencing. I also heard of the squatters that infiltrate the area and two drug houses in the area as well,” said Mr Van Zyl.

“They mentioned that there is a drug problem in the community with youngsters turning to crime to feed their drug habits,” he said.

JP Smith, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said the recent deployment of 100 Law Enforcement officers would benefit the area.

“The Bo Kaap, because of its proximity to the CBD, will benefit from the additional officers deployed to the area. It is accepted that a focus on a particular area will displace crime to a neighbouring area. Because of this phenomenon officers on a daily basis conduct patrols in the Bo Kaap as part of a general sweep of the area. All the areas surrounding the CBD such as Vredehoek, Gardens etc all benefit from the additional boots on the ground, because the enforcement operations follow the crime pattern analysis which is relayed to them on a regular basis,” Mr Smith said.

Residents are concerned about their safety in the Bo-Kaap.