Crime levels worry De Waterkant residents

De Waterkant residents are concerned about an increase in crime in the suburb and say that tourists are often seen as soft targets.

At a meeting organised by residents last week to discuss the matter, Gary de Klerk, spokesperson for the residents’ association, said the area was mostly populated by residents and tourists.

“(Among these are) leisure visitors supporting the many restaurants in the area, and revellers who either party at a specific venue or who park in the area and circulate between venues.

“Once they have had a few drinks, they become soft targets and often residents are woken by the ugly sounds of screams and cries for help in the early hours of the morning.

“Recently a private security guard was beaten up and one of the boutique hotels in the area had electronic equipment stolen from the reception desk by a group of criminals. This was captured on their CCTV system.”

Mr De Klerk added that tourism was very sensitive to crime and De Waterkant was one the main tourist areas in Cape Town. “We are concerned that the City of Cape Town and other key players in providing security are not taking this seriously enough.”

He said one of the biggest problems was that crimes were often left unreported for a number of reasons.

“(These include that) the item stolen is recovered, the victim is intoxicated and therefore nervous to go to a police station, a tourist who has to leave town or will claim from travel insurance when they get home, a local visitor to the area who doesn’t live or work here and doesn’t have the time to come back to report the crime, the victim knows nothing will be done about it as there are bigger and more serious crimes for the police and courts to attend to.”

As a result, he said, SAPS believed it was a relatively safe and crime-free area based on their statistics and records and will only recognise a crime if it has been assigned a case number.

He added that there needed to be more patrols done in the area. “We as residents and a community would rather prevent crime from happening than rely on intervention during or after the crime,” added Mr De Klerk.

Nicola Jowell, chairperson of the Cape Town Central Community Police Forum (CPF), said there had been a number of incidents in the area recently and that the area around De Waterkant was considered a priority area along with Long Street.

“These areas tend to have a higher rate of incidents due to the volume of people using them and the concentration of restaurants, bars and nightclubs,” she said. “The fact that arrests are being made should be seen in a positive light as it means that the GPCID and SAPS are active in the area. We are concerned about crime throughout the precinct and the reality that robberies, commercial crime and assaults are some of our key areas of concern.”

She added that the primary role of policing lay with SAPS, with the assistance of the CIDs but the community had a significant role to play in assisting them.

“The De Waterkant area has a high concentration of tourists and unfortunately they become easy and lucrative targets for criminals. It is essential that our guest houses and hotels ensure that their guests are adequately cautioned about keeping safe in the city in the way that we do in many cities around the world.

“We also appeal to residents to take the necessary safety precautions while in their homes and to not be complacent. There are many preventative strategies that we should be using to prevent becoming a victim of crime and all too often we do not employ these.”

Ms Jowell said one of the biggest problems was crimes not being reported.

“As a CPF we meet with SAPS and highlight these areas of concern and increased criminal activity.

“However, if the crime stats do not reflect this then it is exceptionally difficult to get operations and additional resources deployed in these areas over others where the crime is reported and reflect a higher rate of incidents. We are deeply concerned at what we believe is an increase in violent crime in the area and the more frequent use of weapons.”

Captain Ezra October, spokesperson for the Cape Town Central police station, said regular patrols were done in the area and that people were being targeted when they left clubs and restaurants.

“When people leave and are outside waiting to get an Uber or cab, that is when they are targeted. People can see that they are intoxicated,” he said.

Captain October said muggings, theft and theft out of motor vehicles were the most common crimes in the area.

He said these crimes usually took place between 8pm and midnight, from Wednesday nights through to the weekend.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, said the City encouraged residents to be part of their neighbourhood watches as they created community activism and encouraged residents to take ownership of their area and take responsibility for its safety. “Getting involved with a local neighbourhood watch brings residents out from behind their high walls and locked gates, to get to know their neighbours and exchange phone numbers in case of an emergency. If residents do not know their neighbours, they will not be able to identify when a stranger is on their property. Knowing the neighbours
brings the area one step closer to being safer because you can look out for one another,” Mr Smith said.