Belper Road crime headaches for residents

Residents of Wynberg’s Belper Road, which runs alongside the Wetton Road bridge, have called on authorities to assist with ongoing crime issues in the area.

They say muggings have become a common occurrence under the bridge because of lack of security and fencing.

They say criminals target residents, pupils and commuters who use the thoroughfare to get from Wynberg to Kenilworth.

Vagrancy has also become an issue at the top of Belper Road next to the railway where homeless people have put up structures.

Leora Braude was mugged at the bridge two week ago while walking her dog at 6.20am.

A man wielding a pick-axe like weapon grabbed her hand and demanded her wedding ring.

“He grabbed my hand and tried to get the ring off and in the scuffle he dropped the weapon and I thew it over the stairs rail which leads to Cape Town the top of Wetton bridge. He managed to pull my ring off my finger and ran off along the railway and was gone,” said Ms Braude.

She said the only solution to curbing crime in the area would be to close it.

“I understand that the area is a thoroughfare for commuters and school students travelling between Wynberg and Kenilworth but the area should be closed with fencing or a brick wall so that people don’t go under the bridge. That is the only resolution I can think of to keep commuters and residents safe and to keep criminals out,” said Ms Braude.

Residents Wayne van der Vent said residents are at their wits’ end about the ongoing muggings and have tried to alleviate some of the crime in the area by hiring a security guard to keep watch and to keep people safe.

“We have had engagements with the City of Cape Town and we have a street watch and police about the crime, vagrancy and possibility of closing up the area but nothing seems to be done about the issue. There has been a spike in cases and it’s mostly blue collar workers and commuters who are targeted. We reported the incidents, appointed a guard and have an active street watch and neighbourhood watch but there is only so much we can do as residents,” said Mr Van der Vent.

Wynberg police spokesperson, Silvino Davids, said the matter is receiving attention and confirmed that there has been an increase in mugging cases at the bridge.

“There has been a spike and we are monitoring the situation and patrolling. The area is however Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa land. The vagrancy is also a City of Cape Town mandate but we keep in contact with the neighbourhood watch and implore people to report cases,” said Captain Davids.

Ward councillor Montgomery Oliver said there is not much the City of Cape Town can do about the crime or fencing but they have addressed the vagrancy.

“Our hands are tied because the land in question belongs to Prasa. We have tried to engage Prasa and law enforcement has been sent into the area to address the vagrancy but other than that there is not much we can do because the land belongs to Prasa,” said Mr Oliver.

Prasa spokesperson, Riana Scott, said the issue at Belper Road has been highlighted but said railway fencing primarily demarcates boundaries and most fencing will not deter wilful entry.

She said Prasa replaces or mends fencing on an ongoing basis as funds permit and budgets are committed and added that vagrancy has become a big concern.

“The continued influx of economically depressed groups led to an increase in vagrancy. The City of Cape Town acknowledged that it had reached unprecedented numbers. We have also recorded increased invasions onto vacant properties and rail reserves. The resources to deal with this phenomenon remain constrained in the face of urgent priorities,” said Ms Scott.

She added that vacant Prasa property has been documented and efforts are made to either lease or develop these, depending on each property’s zoning and land use.

“Facilities are fenced off to the public, only to be broken into and vandalised repeatedly because they have nowhere else to go. Prasa Corporate Real Estate Solutions (CRES), responsible for Metrorail facilities, has regular engagements with the City of Cape Town’s human settlement department and we continue to remove informal dwellers on a rotational basis almost weekly from scores of stations,” she said.

Ms Scott said Prasa’s asset protection unit stepped up their vigilance in ensuring that sites are secure and protected from further vandalism.

“Until more facilities such as the recently opened The Haven are made available to Cape Town’s vagrants and they are incentivised to use it, the phenomenon will persist. Many homeless people choose to live on the streets and refuse assistance because they are addicted to drugs and other harmful substances or prefer living on the streets due to housing and or family problems.

“Until a sustainable solution is reached, our Protection Services employees will continue with a rotational programme of removals from scores of sites and arrests with the assistance of police,”said Ms Scott.

She added that the issue will be raised with Prasa’s Facilities Division following the Southern Mail’s media enquiry.

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