Bridge a safety risk

Residents of Lotus River are livid and say "enough is enough" after a spate of robberies in the past three years.

Lotus River flats residents living next to the canal are furious that their requests to get rid of a bridge used as a “get-away” for criminals and for dangerous alleys to be shut have fallen on deaf ears.

They handed in their grievances to the City of Cape Town in November last year.

The robberies at the flats have been causing uneasiness and fear, said Lameez Manuel from Central Neighbourhood Watch.

She said they are “fed-up with criminals using the bridge as an escape route as well as a hot spot for drug peddling”.

Residents said they have been the target of robbers for the past six years and in November last year they spoke to the ward councillor, Patricia van der Ross to request the bridge be demolished and the alleys closed so criminals cannot enter the Lotus River flats area.

Ms Manuel said: “There were too many robberies taking place here so we have requested many times in the past to get rid of the bridge. The City of Cape Town closed the entrances of the bridge a few years ago but the gates were broken down again. We have hooked up with Stephen Road Neighbourhood Watch, mostly women, to patrol during there night and day, but that is not enough to stop the robbers.”

Ms Manuel said their lives were in danger. “We were shocked to hear that a woman was choked and her domestic worker was held at gunpoint two weeks ago. The house in Raymond Circle is next to the bridge. This woman is still in hospital and the thieves robbed her of laptops and other appliances.”

Aubrey Engel said his daughter was robbed of a cellphone three weeks ago between 10am and 11am. “She was traumatised as it was three guys who approached her. We have reported it to the Grassy Park police.”

Some of the residents told Southern Mail that they have “no confidence” in the police and therefore they often don’t report crime.

Unreported robberies which allegedly took place include an incident on Monday February 5 when there was another robbery on the bridge.

An attempted robbery took place that evening but the would-be victim threw his cellphone into his car parked nearby and called out to his mother. The scream for help scared the thieves away.

Farieda Ceres said she witnessed a man being robbed at gunpoint, at Stanley Road park, and the thief got away with two gold chains.

Another resident said her daughter was robbed of her cellphone as she walked through the alley, in Klip Road, while taking her grandchild to school.

Rosie Jaftha said in last year there have been many burglaries and the criminals steal anything. “They took my son’s homing pigeons,” she said.

One resident said she witnessed drug peddling taking place on the bridge.

Warrant Officer Wynita Kleinsmith, spokesperson for Grassy Park police, said they can confirm that since last month five cases of robberies have been reported in that specific area, which includes Ms Engel’s case.

“All this happened in January, no incidents were reported for February. Regular patrols and searches take place in that area on a continuous bases.

“Grassy Park SAPS urge the community to report all cases because this will show a true reflection of crime. According to crime reported we establish our hot spot area,” said Warrant Officer Kleinsmith.

Philip Bam, chairperson of Grassy Park Police Forum (CPF), said: “On the CPF side we wish to say that a neighbourhood watch is being formed in Raymond Circle which is accessed from the bridge. Last Friday the neighbourhood watch patrolled the area and people repeated the request to have the bridge closed off or removed as it gives easy passage to criminals.

“There is also a neighbourhood watch in Stephen Road. The CPF had called for more visible policing in the area but this is often hampered by lack of resources. The police management is aware of the problem and dealing with the CPF request. Municipal infrastructure plays an important part in crime prevention and we would urge the councillor to give serious attention to redesigning the municipal infrastructure and landscape in that area.”

After Southern Mail requested feedback, Ms Van der Ross scheduled a meeting with Lotus River flats residents, on Monday February 12.

“After a very productive interaction meeting I can tell you the following: In our meeting last year the communities of Stanley Road, Simon Road, Stephen Road and Raymond Circle had a big concern regarding the increase in break-ins in Raymond circle as well as robbing and stabbing, fighting incidents and dumping in the area.

“The identified problem areas are the walk over bridge and the alley ways. I have been interacting with officials over the past few months and have been given direction. However, the worry I have as the ward councillor is that this request has been coming on since 2012/2013 through the previous ward councillor (Melanie Arendse). I have sent an email to our Mayco members of transport and urban development authority as well as utilities, dated February 12.”

In the email, Ms Van der Ross asked Brett Heron, mayoral committee member for transport and urban development, and Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for informal settlements, water and waste services, and energy for something to be done.

“I’m not sure if this has been brought to your attention but it now affects this already disadvantaged community even further.”

She proposed that the bridge be demolished and the alleys closed by the end of this month.

Ms Van der Ross said: “We do understand that there are processes that needs to be followed. I have in turn received responses to my email and hopefully we will find a way forward in order for these residents who have been living here for over 40 years to start sleeping better at night and feel safer in their homes and the criminal activity will almost be eliminated. In saying that I want to thank the neighbourhood watches that put their lives at risk to protect our residents.”

Any crime related incidents can be forwarded to sector manager, Constable Eugene Nel, on 082 522 0499.