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You ain’t seen nothing till you’ve grown up in Booysens, says Gareth Anderson. “That’s because nobody causes k*k here,” he says, resolutely. “We look after each other. If something’s happening, we call each other for help.”
But if locals are safe it’s not because of the gabled police station that’s situated just a few hundred metres away.
“If we phone the police because there’s a fight on the street, they’ll walk straight past us,” Anderson spits. “They won’t do anything.”
This week’s crime stats reveal a different picture. They show that the Booysens police precinct had among the lowest number of crimes recorded in the province.
Here, almost every crime has decreased in the past year including murder, which is down by 32 percent and sexual offences by 42 percent.
Carjackings, and robberies are also down, though drug-related crimes have increased slightly.
Not bad for a police station voted the worst in 2005. Still, Anderson is sceptical of the praise heaped on the police.
“What?,” he says, in disbelief of the statistics. “They broke into a car right across the road last night and stole a radio and an amp. We didn’t even bother reporting that to the police,” he said.
It was his neighbour’s sister car, he said.
“In just five minutes the radio was gone, ignition tampered with and one nut on each tyre was gone,” says Wayne Volschenk, the neighbour.
But he shrugged: “We live in South Africa, these things happen. You know you can’t leave a car on a pavement at night anywhere because they’ll hit it.”
Anderson has not been a victim of crime in recent years, and his first and only robbery was in 2000.
“I’m still waiting for the police to come take fingerprints and the station is at the end of the block,” he shakes his head, wryly.
Anderson has lived in Booysens for 34 years. Like him, he says, his home is humble.
“We’ve been here so long, that nobody will try anything. This is where I am raising my children. It’s a lovely area.
“We know everyone. Look at my house, there’s no security, no palisade fencing, but we’re safe.”
Volschenk interjects. Tight security is what attracts thugs to peoples homes, he says.
“If you have high walls, electric fencing and pitbulls people think you have something to hide.”
Dominic Mabaso, a business administration student, who has spent most of his life in Booysens, believes the reason the area is safe is because of the police presence.
But on almost every corner, he says, there are taverns.
“I think the police do a good job. That’s why Booysens is okay. The only things are the fights that break out once in a while.”
Anderson adds: “There is no crime here, but it’s not because of the police, it’s because of us. I can walk home from the slots at Gold Reef City at 1am. Everyone knows me. No one will try anything,” he laughs.
The police station also serves Forest Hill, and Rosettenville, which Anderson calls “a little Hillbrow”, while the real “gangsters” control Turffontein, he says.