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Johannesburg - Squatters, not police officers, are the permanent occupants of the Saulsville police station in Atteridgeville.
The squatters use the police station - which has been left unoccupied since construction was completed in 2005 - as a place to sleep.
The main gates are always locked but people still manage to gain access through the rear. The police insignia at the front of the station has been stolen and weeds are growing in the parking lot. There is no security guard to ensure the building does not get vandalised.
For any crime issues, the residents have to rely on Atteridgeville police station.
Resident Susan Themba said crime was a big problem in the area. “We have to be in the house by six in the evening otherwise you risk being mugged or attacked on the streets. Even when you are in your house, you feel uneasy because people can still break in.
“You always hear about break-ins, stabbings and car hijackings. People in the area are unemployed so they do crime to try and survive.”
She said that officers from the Atteridgeville station sometimes patrolled their area but it did not seem to deter criminals. “They do not do it regularly, so criminals have nothing to be scared of. If we had our own police station then things would be easier.”
IFP police spokesman Velaphi Ndlovu said he wrote a letter to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa about the police station in August.
“He responded to me and said that the police station was built by the Passenger Rail Association of South Africa and they have not yet handed it over to them.
“This community needs a police station, because there is a high rate of nyaope and other drug use. Now we also have squatters living in the police station that should have been used to cater for the community’s needs.”
Mthethwa’s spokesman Zweli Mnisi referred questions to national police spokesman Lieutenant-general Solomon Makgale. Makgale promised to respond, but had not done so at the time of publication.
Ndlovu said Saulsville residents were not the only ones who had problems with policing. “I visited Mamelodi West police station after being invited by the community of Mamelodi, who are extremely concerned about the problem of drug dealers operating in their area. There were also allegations that some SAPS members were protecting the drug dealers.
“I subsequently went to the police station to find out exactly what the police officers are doing in fighting this scourge. I was informed by the highest ranking officer in attendance that although the police station was logistically well resourced, it was badly under-staffed.”
He said Mthethwa and police commissioner Riah Phiyega should urgently visit Mamelodi West to get first-hand information on how some officers are working with drug dealers.
Saulsville hostel dweller Xolani Buthelezi, who has been living in the area for two years, said he has been a victim of crime a few times. “I have had a TV and other things stolen. If there was a police station the area would be safer.”