eThekwini tackles cemetery crime

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grave digger AP File photo: Boris Heger

Durban - Work to install CCTV cameras at Red Hill Cemetery is under way, part of a R5 million package to beef up security at crime plagued cemeteries across eThekwini.

This was according to the city’s Head of Parks, Recreation and Culture Unit, Thembinkosi Ngcobo.

He said the budget for the current financial year included the provision of security guards at cemeteries.

This follows complaints by residents of rampant crime at cemeteries, including the firing of gun salutes by gangsters and drug taking.

The city was responsible for the maintenance of 60 cemeteries.

“All cemeteries will be assessed with regards to fencing to determine repairs and additional requirements to control access. Additional guards will be deployed to the more active cemeteries to improve access control,” Ngcobo said.

Residents near Crossmoor Cemetery in Chatsworth last month voiced their frustrations at continuing incidents of vandalism, drug trade and youngsters having sex at the cemetery.

In November, residents living near the West Street Cemetery were awoken by gunshots at about 10pm, after a funeral.

Bullet shells

The Daily News found 27 bullet shells of various calibres strewn in the parking lot and in the graveyard.

Neighbours living near the Red Hill Cemetery have complained of gangsters firing gun salutes for fallen comrades.

Last year, the municipality set aside a R600 000 budget to install CCTV cameras at Red Hill Cemetery and Ngcobo said the city would look at putting cameras in other cemeteries.

“The new budget allocation allows for night-shift guards to be deployed, which will discourage vandalism and other illegal activities that have been reported,” Ngcobo said.

“The installation phase of the CCTV cameras is still under way,” he said.

Manager of cemeteries and crematoria, Pepe Dass, said police had been asked to provide support at Red Hill Cemetery to prevent the illegal use of weapons.

“This arrangement is effective and our staff are making every attempt to ensure that the police (know) in advance of funerals where the deceased might have died of gang-related activity,” said Dass.

He said vandalism affected most cemeteries, especially the theft of copper pipes used in plumbing and the destruction of fences.

“The proposed security requirement is for 24/7 security at all cemeteries and places a huge burden on the budget…,” Dass said.

He said the community needed to play its part to reduce the problem by notifying the police of crime in cemeteries.

Howard Orum, of the Red Hill neighbourhood watch, said he had not heard any gunshots at the cemetery since December.

He said cameras were welcome, but police needed to react immediately to any law-breaking; merely recording such incidents “would be useless”.

“Police are doing their best to stop this thing, but you don’t know where and when they would come and shoot guns. They (police) should close the gates and search everyone at the cemetery,” said Orum.

“Eventually somebody is going to get killed. It cannot be controlled if people shoot… with an AK-47 and that is illegal,” Orum said.

“There is an access (control) problem at the cemetery. Some of the gates are damaged and some walls are down,” he said.

Rookoo Singh, who lives near Crossmoor Cemetery, said the cemetery had been clean and quiet since the community had begun to chase away criminals found lurking among the graves.

However, Singh said robberies still took place at the cemetery.

“We need security badly. During the day they rob people inside the cemetery as they use a route that goes through the middle of it.”

She said the gate should not be closed as the route was used by residents but security was needed around the clock.

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