Retreat station hot spot

The Retreat railway station has become a hot spot for crime over the years.

Residents of Lakeview have been begging the authorities to join forces and help eliminate a long-time crime problem at Retreat railway station.

They are asking the management and the railway police unit to keep the station clear of robbers, thieves and the drug addicts who lurk there in the early hours of the morning.

Retreat station serves the whole of Retreat, Cafda, Grassy Park, Lavender Hill, Seawinds and Capricorn Park.

Lakeview residents said their area has seen an increase in gangsters coming from all over to “hang out” at Retreat station and rob people of phones, jewellery and other valuables.

However, the main problem is gangsters marking their territory and causing havoc in Lakeview.

Chad Hamilton, chairperson of the Lakeview Neighbourhood Watch, said the problem areas where crime had escalated over the years are at the parking lot at the station, the taxi rank on the Lakeview side and the corner shop in Chad Road.

Mr Hamilton said crime had been rife at the shop and the foreign owners are being ignored by the gangsters who use the shop as an operating drug station.

The community have also complained that the shop is a health hazard.

“We have stakeholders who will be getting health inspectors in as mice and rat faeces have been found inside bread, rice, porridge and bean packets. The shop needs to be removed,” said Mr Hamilton.

Southern Mail asked the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) if they would consider closing spaza shops at the station. 

Metrorail Western Cape spokesperson Riana Scott said: “Our sister division Prasa, Corporate Real Estate Solutions (CRES) is responsible for property management. It has expressed concern about the allegations against leaseholders but can unfortunately not invoke remedial action in terms of the lease provisions without substantiated proof.”

Mr Hamilton said taxis are also complicit in crime as they transport the “runners” who deliver the drug money.

One other observation was that the area outside the pub in Chad Road was also taken over by gangsters.

Mr Hamilton said although the pub owners have a licence, they want their next application for renewal to be declined. “In last week we had a joint operation with Steenberg police at the pub and we found
alcohol consumption outside the pub.”

Constable Wesley Twigg, spokesperson for Steenberg police, said Steenberg police in partnership with the neighbourhood watches had a joint operation on Friday February 22.

“Vehicle check-points and stop-and-search operations were conducted. Arrests were made on drug-related charges and dealing in liquor,” said Constable Twigg.

Mr Hamilton said they want more police visibility and not only a police response when the community call them.

Lakeview Neighbourhood Watch had a problem with the bad elements hanging around at Retreat station where gangsters also marked their territory on walls. Mr Hamilton said the platform has a camera but claimed the footage on cameras is overlooked.

Ms Scott said: “Feedback received from the regional Protection Services confirms that the cameras at Retreat station are operational – footage is stored for a about 14 days and can be retrieved if required. They have taken note of the concerns expressed about the general conditions around the station and will factor it into their joint deployment and patrols.”

Ms Scott said all security concerns have to be reported to the police. “SAPS Rapid Rail Response Units (RRPU’s) are provincial units allocated to rail and do not fall within Metrorail’s purview. Our teams work very closely with (RRPU), SAPS provincial offices and the Rail Enforcement Unit (REU) and deployment of joint resources is based on reports and credible intelligence.”

Ward councillor Kevin Southgate said that if the cameras are active then they should be able to address the alleged problems.

“I recall that at one stage the Railway police said that their responsibility is to protect Metrorail infrastructure not deal with drug dealing. This is ludicrous given that the one impacts on the other. There have been three reported incidents of trains being set alight and in the one instance it was because people were smoking drugs in the train while the train was parked off.”

Mr Southgate said: “The problem is not new. We have been complaining to Prasa on numerous occasions over the years and they have been very non-responsive. They have done nothing to address the situation and their inactivity has only served to exacerbate the problem.”

Mr Southgate said they have had engagements with the local neighbourhood watches, Prasa, SAPS and the community police forum in an attempt to find a solution. “SAPS tell us they can’t do anything because it is Prasa property and that their responsibility stops at the steps leading onto the station precinct. We have a similar problem at Heathfield station. We have requested the closure of the subway at Heathfield after the last train at night and the first one in the morning. We have been told that Heathfield is on the priority list but that everything is budget dependent.”

The Lakeview residents said their lives are affected and the authorities should “come to the party”.

Mr Southgate said: “I agree that their lives are adversely affected and that Prasa is doing nothing to assist. The options are not always easy to implement from a community perspective because you are dealing with dangerous people. The community should start by taking ownership of the space by becoming more involved with the civic association and NHW. They must engage with SAPS and Metro police and report the places where drugs are traded because before the drugs reach the station they must come from somewhere.”

Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson of the Steenberg Community Policing Forum (CPF), said the forum is aware of the drug peddling.

“We have had numerous complaints about the issue and we’ve also engaged police and they have been operational in that area. Besides the drugs there are also a lot of petty crimes around the area which all stems from the drug trade. It is very concerning.”

Mr Walbrugh is appealing to residents to report crime at police stations.

“It’s very difficult for the CPF to hold police accountable because we can’t produce a case number then it is pointless because people do not report crime.

“This is the case in a lot of the areas where people do not go to the police to report even small crimes. People are just not willing to come forward but they need to understand that police would have a strong case against perpetrators to arrest them and charge them.”