Hopes curfew will curb crime

Residents marched through the streets of Parkwood.

There is hope that the reinstatement of some national Covid-19 lockdown regulations will ease the rate of crime and ongoing gang violence plaguing communities in areas such as Parkwood, Ottery, Cafda, Lavender Hill and Hillview.

Addressing the nation on Sunday evening, July 12, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced another curfew for citizens, this time barring people from moving around between 9pm and 4am.

He also again imposed the ban of the sale of alcohol and made the wearing of masks mandatory. These measures were put in place as the country heads towards the speculated peak of Covid-19 infections. The ban on alcohol is to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed during the peak of infections, while the wearing of masks is now compulsory to minimise the spread of the virus.

Over the past few weeks, Southern Mail has reported on a number of gun-related incidents with some areas experiencing daily sporadic shootings.

Grassy Park police station commander, Colonel Dawood Laing, said cases of murder and attempted murder had been reported and suspects have been arrested in some of these cases thanks to the help of information from the community.

Colonel Laing said he sent out an alert warning the public of an increase in gang activity because of gangsters who are deferring from one gang to another.

“From the information we’re getting in many cases the shootings stem from arguments where people are drinking and then a normal argument starts and then families who are gangsters are called and then situations escalate. It is not a gang war,” he said.

“There’s good cooperation from CPFs (community police forums) and neighbourhood watches who are now allowed to patrol again after getting permits and that obviously is helping a lot but the biggest problem we currently have is that people fear coming forward and do not provide witness statements,” he said.

Colonel Laing encouraged people to cooperate with them.

Speaking on the back of the government’s announcements about the new regulations, Grassy Park Public Relations Officer (PRO) Philip Bam said the new implementations will definitely help because crime has escalated during the national lockdown.

He said as the lockdown levels decreased from level 5 to level 3 more people were out and about – including criminals who broke into houses and committed various other crimes.

Colonel Laing agreed and said police will have more power to conduct searches and other operations.

“If there is a curfew and someone is outside we can pull them over because they are not supposed to be on the street so we are confident the curfew will yield good results, especially with the shootings that’s been happening. There were no shootings at level 5 so we are positive the implementation of the curfew will turn things around,” he said.

He also encouraged the ban of alcohol and said this will have an impact on crime in general.

Mr Bam said the neighbourhood watch patrols will also help curb crime.

“The reimplementation of the curfew will help police hone in on would-be criminals. The fact that neighbourhood watches can now again patrol is very good and plays a vital role because at level 5 when they weren’t allowed to patrol, police and the army could not handle the criminals on the streets, so with the help of the patrols the areas will be a lot safer,” said Mr Bam.

Steenberg CPF chairperson Gavin Walbrugh said gang violence had been evident but is confident the new laws will bring about calm.

“Since lockdown levels decreased there has been a lot more criminal activity and criminals were walking around at all hours of the night. With the curfew this will help and neighbourhood watches will be able to assist as well,” he said.

Mr Walbrugh and Mr Bam encouraged residents to adhere to the new regulations.

Steenberg station commander, Colonel Jan Alexander, said he cannot predict the future and said there will probably still be criminal activities happening but behind closed doors.

“We still depend on targeted driven information so residents need to let us know when they see criminal activities and then we will respond accordingly.”

Colonel Alexander said the ban of alcohol could help police as well as the reinstatement of the neighbourhood watch.