About 50 people protested outside the Steenberg police station, on Monday, demanding better policing in a community plagued by violent crime.
The protesters, who form part of the 7945 Action Group, want more visible policing for Lavender Hill, St Montague Village, Cafda, Steenberg and greater Retreat; more police staff and vehicles; and an investigation into alleged corruption at the station.
The demands were listed in a memorandum presented to the station’s management by Yaseen Staggie, a member and convenor for the action group.
The group was formed to address various issues in the communities with the postal code 7954, which includes the greater Retreat area. It has been vocal about crime, gangsterism and other social ills as well as a recent increase in gang violence in Lavender Hill and St Montague Village.
Mr Staggie said one police station could not service five high-crime neighbourhoods with only four police vans.
“We cannot continue like this; we cannot lose another child to gang violence because of the incompetency of Steenberg SAPS. When we have police visibility, we have less shootings and less killings in these areas. We also want the police station to be investigated because there are police officers who are in cahoots with the gang leaders and the drug bosses.”
It’s not the first time the group has addressed what it feels are policing deficiencies in the area.
In June and August last year, the group met with Steenberg police management, but Mr Staggie said their concerns had not been heeded.
The group has now given the police until Monday January 31 to respond to its grievances.
“If our cries and grievances are not being heard by a certain date then action will be taken from the community’s side,” Mr Staggie said.
He did not elaborate on what kind of action would be taken.
“Our group is against violence and damage to infrastructure, but we will take action. We are no longer going to sit back and complain about issues, we are going to pursue it, go up the chain of command, knock on relevant doors and do whatever we need to do until our communities become safe once again.”
Shanen Rossouw, the ward councillor for Lavender Hill, Retreat and Cafda, supported the peaceful protest and said the community had long knocked on the wrong doors by blaming councillors for shootings, gangsterism and other crimes happening in the area.
“We have to hold SAPS accountable, and this is the first step in doing so. The broader communities of Steenberg, Lavender Hill and Cafda have taken this step because crime is out of control.”
Other law-enforcement agencies, including the justice department, should also be called to account, she said.
“At the end of the day, we are all getting salaries to do our jobs, and if we are not doing what we are supposed to then we have to be held accountable.”
Rozina Johnson, princess of the Royal House of the Khoi and San in Cafda, said the community was sick of murder, robberies, and other crimes happening “all at once”, and there was no police intervention to stop this.
“There is no police visibility as well,” she said.
“One of the major challenges is young people are losing their lives during this crime spell,” she said. “I understand that police are short staffed, but national and provincial departments should step in to help contain these crimes,” said Ms Johnson.
There was also a problem with the way the Expanded Public Works Programme was being run, she said.
“Everyone gets a chance to work three months at a time, but some people work up to six months while others who are also qualified have to wait. The problem is that people who have experienced this do not want to come forward so there is no proof of favouritism.”
Steenberg police spokesman Sergeant Luqmaan Adams said the station commander, Colonel Jan Alexander, did not wish to comment at this stage.