Cape Town - Bo-Kaap business owners have called on local authorities to step in to stop the crime wave that they say is worsening daily, with residents and tourists mugged regularly.
They say the main problem is the lack of visible policing and the Kraal informal settlement above Bo-Kaap, which is a breeding ground for crime as many of the criminals either come from the area or can flee through it and hide.
Of particular concern is the impact on tourism, with Michel Boutry, owner of the Rouge boutique hotel, saying at least two businesses had relocated recently.
Businesses planned to write to city and provincial officials to ask them to come up with a plan to prevent crime in the area.
“Bo-Kaap is booming and the government does so much to promote tourism, but we can’t ensure people’s safety. Tourist muggings have become the norm,” Boutry said.
Yoaan Nicholas, of the Rose Guest House, said many tourists did not report crime as they were either too traumatised or would leave soon after the incident.
For those who did report crime, he said it was a dead-end as most cases never went further than police taking a statement.
“These people come here to spend money and the consequences (of crime) for the economy are massive,” Nicholas said.
Local residents were also victims of muggings and many elderly people were mugged on the days they collected their pension.
Jason Groenevelt, sales manager of Motor Star, a classic car company, said the firm had moved out of the area mainly because of crime and vagrants.
“Crime was definitely a factor. Over the 11 years that we were there, vagrancy increased and we had people sleeping in front of the business with drug paraphernalia lying around. People were mugged in front of our business,” he said.
Another business, a printing company, also relocated.
Resident Connie Booysen has been living in Bo-Kaap for 20 years and said burglaries and house robberies, and theft out of vehicles were regular occurrences.
“You don’t see a lot of violent crime, but the robberies are a big problem. On Thursday a guy nearly broke into my daughter’s car, but they managed to chase him away. I have seen tourists robbed and I have also been robbed. A few months ago I was crossing the street and a guy offered to help me. He put his hand around my neck and grabbed my gold chain,” Booysen said.
Another resident, Mahmud Jamallodien, said burglaries and robberies were common and crime was increasing.
Adheera Bodasing, of the Rose Guest House, said: “We have highlighted the problem before but there is no will to fix it.”
Economic Development and Tourism MEC Alan Winde said the department had a tourism safety and support office to help tourists in case of accidents and crime.
“I am happy to sit down with the community and discuss a strategy, but in the meantime they need to make use of what measures are in place and report crimes.”
Mark Truss, chief executive for the Green Point improvement district, said they often tried to assist, and had made five arrests in the past month.
“The difficulty is visible policing. Bo-Kaap is a tourist mecca and officials need to start seeing it that way. I don’t think one day goes by without a tourist being mugged.”
Ward councillor Dave Bryant said: “The core responsibility for safety lies with the police as they do operations. It’s true that most tourists don’t report crime, but they need to start reporting crime so police can know where to deploy people.”
Because of capacity and budget constraints, it was impossible for the city improvement districts to extend their services to Bo-Kaap.
Police spokesman Tembinkosi Kinana said police conducted crime intelligence operations in the area and at the Kraal informal settlement.
Over the past two months a number of robbery and armed robbery cases were reported and arrests made, though police did not supply statistics.
“The sector commander visits businesses on a daily basis to enquire about any reports or complaints.”
The tourism safety office number is 082 554 2010.