Crime concerns at cemetery

Vandalism and theft at Klip Cemetery is rife.

People visiting their loved one’s graves at Klip Road cemetery have been encouraged to do so in groups or during times when the cemetery is busy.

The lack of fencing at the facility has become a problem and residents adjacent to the cemetery said it has become a breeding ground for criminals.

Resident Elaine Davids said the cemetery was used as a thoroughfare by those walking between Grassy Park and Parkwood.

“The cemetery has become a dangerous place and those visiting grave sites are not safe and neither are those who use it as a thoroughfare. I’ve seen people get robbed and criminals lurking in the graveyard waiting on their next victim,” said Ms Davids.

She said several complaints had been lodged with the City of Cape Town to address safety and security at the facility.

“It seems the situation is getting worse instead of better. There is no security at the cemetery and a lot of the crime spills over and is putting us as residents at risk,” added Ms Davids.

Daniella Lewis often visits the gravesite of her mother who died earlier this year but has been scared to go to the cemetery alone.

“I used to come alone at least once every two weeks to put flowers on my mother’s grave but I haven’t been since two months ago because I don’t feel safe at the cemetery and have heard of cases where people have been robbed.

“Now I only go when someone is with me or in the morning on a Saturday when I know the cemetery is full of people. I’ve also had flowers stolen from my mother’s grave because people apparently resell it,” said Ms Lewis.

Grassy Park police spokesperson, Captain Wynita Kleinsmith, could not confirm cases of robbery or a case of theft of the fencing at the facility but Zahid Badroodien, Mayco member for community services and health, said the City of Cape Town had replaced the metal fencing numerous times and sections of the fencing are being stolen faster than the City’s recreation and parks department can continue to replace it.

“New fencing is becoming a commodity for criminals to steal and, by replacing the fencing, the recreation and parks department is enabling more theft, which defeats the purpose of replacing it,” said Dr Badroodien.

He said panels of the metal fencing on the Parkwood side of the Klip Cemetery had reportedly been stolen in April and to mitigate against further losses, it was replaced with concrete palisade, which was completed at the end of June.

However, as soon as the contractor starting replacing the missing sections, the remaining metal palisade fence was stolen.

The City’s recreation and parks department has allocated R7.6 million for the maintenance of cemeteries for the current financial year. Individual cemeteries have maintenance plans for which budgets will be allocated as the need arises.

“A new contractor has now been appointed to replace the remainder of the fence and close the gap by end of November, hopefully making the facility a lot safer for visitors.”

Dr Badroodien said the department had considered alternatives such as security guards: “This section of fencing is in a dark, secluded part of the cemetery and borders a large, vacant portion of land. This makes patrolling ineffective and dangerous for one security guard to manage – not to mention the unsustainability of the high cost of private security.”

Booms were also installed earlier this year for access control but were vandalised almost immediately. They were fixed at least twice but were again stolen or vandalised.

“The reality is that we have a social problem which manifests itself as crime and vandalism on easy targets such as cemeteries. Cemeteries are no longer viewed as places of respect towards the deceased but rather a means to an end. As long as anti-social habits such as drug and alcohol abuse perpetuate in society, cemeteries will remain soft targets for resources which can easily be stolen to generate cash,” Dr Badroodien said.

People are also encouraged to be selective about the type of materials used in memorial works to lessen the likelihood of them being stolen.

“Surveillance cameras have been suggested but many cemeteries have large trees which obscure vision in certain areas. These too would be prone to vandalism and it will require continuous monitoring and response which comes at a high price,” said Dr Badroodien.