Walmer Estate residents are worried about an increase in criminal activity in the area, following three armed robberies in two weeks. On two occasions, a cigarette delivery van was hijacked and robbed while delivering at local shops. On Sunday late afternoon, a female resident was attacked and her car was hijacked.
Chairperson of the Walmer Estate Residents Community Forum (WERCF), Moosa Sydow said the sudden increase in criminal activity could be attributed to the fact that the area has been put on the map due to the new MyCiti bus route. In addition, Sydow explained that surrounding areas which include Salt River, Woodstock and Observatory has been implementing measures to clamp down on crime and as a result it has driven criminals in search of a new target.
“No one really took interest in this area. It was always a close knit community, however, as time went on, a new group of people began moving in. We no longer know who our neighbours are. With the new bus route, many outsiders go through our streets on a daily basis and monitor the movements of residents,” Sydow explained.
Residents have already begun to notice suspicious individuals seemingly prowling through the area and looking through car windows.
“A number of residents approached me in recent days to inform me of some suspicious activity which they have noticed. Apparently these residents approached the individuals who then responded in a confrontational and somewhat aggressive manner,” Sydow said.
Due to the close proximity of the homes, there is very little room for garages for vehicles. Car break-ins are a fairly common occurrence.
“People leave their cars outside and for many years, this has not been a problem until now,” Sydow said.
Shop owners have also fallen victim to crime recently. One shop owner, who wished to stay anonymous, said a robbery occurred in the middle of the day.
“This place is not what it used to be. My children could walk freely in the streets without a fear. We are constantly hearing about incidents of rape, hijacking or robbery in the area. This never occurred as frequently in the past. Police focus their efforts on the surrounding areas but often forget about us,” she explained.
Due to the recent incidents, WERCF members agreed to call a community meeting on Saturday 16 August 2014, to address the issue of safety and security.
“We hope the meeting will result in agreed upon measures which we as a community, along with police can implement to ensure a safer area for all. We want to mobilise this community to step up and not only work together in driving out crime but also improve the overall condition of our area,” Sydow said.
While a neighbourhood watch was already established in previous years, there had been very little need for their routine walk-abouts due to the little crime which occurred at the time.
The meeting will include ward councillor, Brett Herron along with police and members of the community. Some residents told VOC News that they have tried to relay their concerns to Councillor Herron but it has proved challenging. VOC News tried contacting Herron but to no avail.
Sydow further said that while crime is on the rise, tackling this new challenge will require a unified community approach.
Meanwhile, Woodstock police has been inundated with reports of robberies recently and has warned the community to be extra vigilant. SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Hilton Malila said people who walk with earphones are the most targeted and warns against the use of earphones in public, due to the fact that this alerts the perpetrator to the victim owning a mobile phone. The victim may not be alert or note that they are being targeted.
Malila advised the public to be cautious at all times but especially during certain periods of the day which includes work travelling time and home time between 6-8am and 6-8pm.
“Over weekends the number of robberies reported are increasingly more in and around the train station due to the dead time period between 12-2pm,”said Malila.
“The prominent days of the week are from Thursday to Saturdays. The hotspots for these robberies are Lower Main Road in Observatory and Albert Road near the Woodstock Railway Station,” he added.
Police have warned the public to not openly display valuable items when walking in the streets or while travelling in a taxi or walking in the streets. Also, avoid walking in areas that is not well lit and isolated and travel in groups as far as possible.
Malila cautions that if you are being robbed, do not resist but obtain as much details as possible of the assailants and the manner in which they left the scene.
He said that people are urged to report all crimes in order for more Saps members to be deployed to specific target areas as well as note the areas where people are not safe.
Police officers have also been deployed in hotspots in unmarked vehicles and private clothing to assist the public. Malila assured the public that they are doing everything possible to make the area safer. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs/ Imogen Vollenhoven)