The bloody unrest that arose in 2010 after Metro police officers demolished a number of shacks in Hangberg came to the fore at a charged meeting to discuss ways to address the crime situation this week.
Three young men already have been murdered in the area this year, as a drug turf war and violent crime take hold on the streets. The community is desperate to find solutions, but many residents are reluctant to see the presence of Metro police due to the events of 2010, saying they can no longer trust this agency.
However, at the meeting at the Hangberg Sports and Recreation Centre on Tuesday May 30, representatives from Metro police, SAPS and law enforcement as well as community leaders implored residents to allow law agencies to come into Hangberg to do their jobs to tackle the rising crime wave.
Metro police senior superintendent Zanekaya Jack told the audience that his cluster covered 11 precincts, and was very short of staff.
Only two vehicles were available to cover this area, and, as a result, it often took officers a long time to respond to calls from the Hangberg community.
He acknowledged that “mistakes” had been made in 2010, but in order to address the current crime scourge people had to move on from the past.
“You cannot keep blaming the past, and we need the community to work with us and the SAPS. We are trying our best to solve these problems. We will be having operations in the area, but we need your help,” he said.
Unlike previous meetings, Tuesday night’s assembly saw audience members being invited to ask questions prior to any presentations by the officials. Pastor Philip Frans, who co-ordinated the meeting, felt that residents’ concerns had not been adequately addressed at a previous gathering.
Roscoe Jacobs, of the Hout Bay Civic Association, suggested there needed to be more visible policing in Hangberg, and also encouraged the City to roll out more youth programmes to entice youngsters away from a life of drugs and crime.
A senior audience member, who works with the Department of Correctional Services in a youth mentoring capacity, emphasised the focus needed to be placed on removing the drug dealers from Hangberg.
“We can’t be held hostage by gangsters, and the public drinking we’re seeing is out of hand. The only way we can improve this situation is to work with the law and their authorities,” he said.
“I see children walking in the street at night, but where are their parents? We need law enforcement in this community.”
The man, who is also a member of the Hangberg Neighbourhood Watch, added that residents wanted help, but did nothing when stones and abuse where hurled at watch patrols at the weekend.
Pastor Frans shared this sentiment, saying watch members were being “treated like animals”.
At this point, resident John Louw announced that he had been in talks with security company ADT, which was willing to buy a patrol vehicle for the neighbourhood watch. This was met with cheers from the audience.
When the meeting resumed, a woman said her neighbours did not have a problem with law enforcement agencies, but they were not nearly visible enough on Friday nights when parties ran to all hours of the morning and drugs and alcohol fuelled violence.
She also called for a 10pm curfew for Hangberg’s youth, which would be enforced by the authorities.
“We approach these children to turn down the music, but we don’t know what weapons these kids have under their shirts. The police do their rounds at 10pm, but you don’t see them after that. These kids know their routine, so as soon as they’re gone the music starts up again. We can’t rely on the police.”
Another man also raised the point of a former Gauteng cop Colonel, Chris Prinsloo, stealing and selling more than 2 000 guns to gangsters on the Cape Flats. Prinsloo was subsequently arrested as part of a lengthy investigation into gangsters and the illegal gun trade in the Western Cape last year and sentenced to 18 years in prison for a string of charges, including corruption, racketeering and theft.
Captain Jacques Lourens, from the Hout Bay police station, acknowledged there was corruption in the police. “We are not going to hide this fact. The case of this colonel was reported in the media. There are rotten apples in the police, but there are also excellent officers who in fact brought him to justice,” he said.
Responding to criticism that police were not being effective in Hangberg, he delivered a series of statistics for the last financial year.
“What you must understand is that there are different vehicles from other clusters operating in your area. It is not only officers from Hout Bay. In the last financial year, we made 228 drug arrests, 17.5kg of dagga and 460 tablets of mandrax were seized and 18 people were arrested for the possession of dangerous weapons,” he said.
“Houses which have been used for drug operations have also been seized by the Asset Forfeiture Unit (a branch of the National Prosecuting Authority). Just because you don’t see the police doesn’t mean operations are not happening. This is happening in your area.”
Captain Lourens then turned to the murder of 18-year-old Ryno Solomons on May 20.
“I have been a police officer a long time, and I have never seen anything like I saw at that crime scene. Children of 11, 12, 13 were on that crime scene making fun of the dead body. It is disgusting. That is not coming from the SAPS, that is coming from the parents.”
Captain Lourens revealed that he had been asked to screen 87 members for the Hangberg Neighbourhood Watch, but questioned why only a handful of these people were at the meeting.
“Where are they now? If you are serious about tackling crime, you have to show commitment. I can’t screen people who show no commitment. Having patrols of four or five people is no good, you need a large presence on the street to show you are serious.”
Ward councillor Roberto Quintas said now that the City’s budget had been approved, he would be using his allocated funds to install CCTV cameras in Hangberg and also looking to establish a so-called cyclops (360 degree) camera in the area.