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Residents criticize lack of safety at Kensington station

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Residents in the Kensington area have voiced concerns about the safety at the Kensington train station. According to reports, residents who access the transport route are at risk of being mugged. Members of the Acre Road Community Safety Watch in Kensington after having monitored the situation over the past few months have notified authorities of the safety issues. The situation, however, remains the same.

The route on which the Kensington train station is located is predominantly used by commuters working in the areas of Century city, Canal Walk, Montague Gardens, and Bellville. The area surrounding the station is not flatbed land and, therefore, provides vantage points for criminals.

Vice-chairperson of the Community Safety watch, Stanley van Breda, explained that residents are frustrated by the inaction of authorities who are liable for ensuring the safety of community members.

“There have been so many incidents where people have been robbed at the station or while using the station to cross from the shopping centre to Kensington,” van Breda noted.

He said security that is stationed at the station ends their shift with the departure of the final train of each day; this provides an environment for criminals to rein freely.

Department Chair and PRO of the Kensington Community Policing Forum (CPF), Mohammed Nordien, explained that the problem is the fact that the area does not belong to the City, but instead belongs to Passenger Rail South Africa (Prasa).

He further asserted that a key factor, which contributes to the level of crime experienced on the line, is the close proximity of Factreton. Also known as ‘die gat’, Factreton is an area that is notorious with gangsterism and drug abuse.

“People are targeted, nearly every day, going to work and heading home,” Nordien explained.

The Kensington Neighbourhood Watch, he confirmed, is patrolling the vicinity. Since the neighbourhood watch relies on volunteer work, it does not have the capacity to “man the area 24 hours a day.”

The area surrounding the station is located in the vicinity where previously the Kensington serial killer was apprehended, a case which is yet to be concluded.

The Kensington CPF has raised the issue of the increase in criminal activity within the area with Prasa. Their requests, however, have “fallen on deaf ears.”

Prasa, however, aside from allocating security to the station platform, has not made adequate arrangements to protect against criminal activity within the fields surrounding the station.

“If it is a case of a lack of resources at the station, then that is a duty of Prasa,” Nordien asserted.

Transnet has replied to concerns, relating to the criminal activity, by stating that though Prasa owns the land “all underground services belongs the city.”

Nordien, however, explained that clarity is required on what “underground services” refers to.

“We will try our best and request assistance from other neighbourhood watches in the evening, but we urge commuters, specifically females, to travel in groups,” Nordien said.

Ward councillor of Ward 56, Lisa McBride explained that when she came into office, 18 months ago, she approached Prasa on the issue. Prasa responded by stating that “they have not received ‘buy-in’ from the community.”

She further noted that since she approached Prasa, various bodies initiated patrols of the area surrounding the station, including; law enforcement officials, the City’s Anti-Dumping Unit, , neighbourhood watches, and the Kensington CPF. In addition, the City’s Solid Waste Department, was employed to clean the area used by commuters to cross to the station.

“There is not anymore community ‘buy-in’ that can happen on that land,” McBride asserted.

The land, McBride explained, is private land; the City’s use of city resources to clean and monitor the land is, therefore, in contravention of its mandate in terms of the municipal finance management systems act.

She further affirmed that in a letter addressed to Prasa she highlighted the concerns of residents. The letter further requested that a peace garden be developed, if no plans are scheduled for the land for the next five years.

“We request that Prasa give us the space so that we can develop a tarred foot-path and a paved area for vehicle access.”

Commuters are currently required to be ‘dropped-off’ in Acre Road as there is no access to the station, which leaves commuters prey to criminal activity.

“If it wasn’t for the residents of the community who clean the foot path, then it would remain ‘unmanaged’ – Prasa is not looking after its own land.”

She explained that while the City is employing solutions, Prasa should “come to the party” and assist in alleviating the problem of criminal activity.

McBride further noted that the Kensington train station is the only station that does not provide vehicle access.

“Would this have happened if it wasn’t a previously disadvantaged area?” McBride concluded.

VOC (Thakira Desai)

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