Johannesburg - During the day, it’s peaceful and quiet, but when the sun goes down, Muldersdrift turns into the Wild West.
This is how Sandi Melnick describes the area she lives in on being asked what it is like to live in a place that has been plagued by violent crime in recent months.
Melnick, who lives in Clinic Road in Muldersdrift on the West Rand, has seen several of her neighbours murdered and robbed in the past few months.
The community has lost numerous people, including a 13-year-old girl, Alyssa Botha, who was shot dead by intruders in September last year.
Melnick has also encountered criminals. In 2005 she and her family were held hostage in their home.
Melnick recalls how she and her husband were tied up, their possessions stolen and her husband beaten up by the robbers.
Now Melnick and her family don’t leave their home after dark.
In the past 10 months, at least 20 violent crimes have taken place in Muldersdrift.
The most recent was last Saturday, when a 55-year-old man was shot dead as he stepped out of his house to visit his neighbour.
Although three men who had been linked to several murders and robberies in the area were arrested in late December, violent crime continues in the area.
The police have deployed more staff, residents have put more security into their homes, yet January has already seen six violent crimes with five people shot dead.
Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said the police and the community were working hand in hand to decrease crime in the area.
“More members have been deployed in the area,” said Mogale.
“The provincial commissioner and his management have engaged with the Muldersdrift community in order to address these attacks.
“After the meeting last week, a committee was formed to come up with short- and medium-term solutions to the challenge.”
Mogale added that officers from the crime combating unit have been deployed in the area and were patrolling 24 hours a day.
Asked why there was such a high crime rate, Mogale said: “With the deployment of members on the highways and byways there has been seen a significant drop in some crimes in the urban areas. The crime decrease in urban areas results in the displacement into the rural areas.”
Mogale urged the Muldersdrift community to be more vigilant.
“They can run background checks on their potential employees. There needs to be participation in the local CPF (community policing forum) and other structures within their community.”
A member of the Muldersdrift CPF who did not want to be named said the police were trying their best to help the community.
“We are extremely encouraged that we have been given a full-time dog unit, mounted unit, crime intelligence experts and additional ground force to combat this spate of violence. They will have to move on eventually in the next month or two, but we are now working with the SAPS Muldersdrift to continue forward with the SAPS Rural Safety Plan which will be better suited to fighting crime in the area and hopefully the station will be given adequate resources for the future to ensure this then stops and doesn’t rise up again.”
The CPF member said senior police officials were overseeing the massive operations in the area and the community was hopeful the police would be successful shortly.
“The CPF is working to keep the community advised and aware of current criminal activities, and provides constant liaison between the community and the SAPS with regards to service, complaints, information and intelligence.
“We are also working very closely with the patrollers. Good community communication has been established and assistance by the community through the CPF, offering the SAPS assistance with various skills such as paramedics, victim support and fire fighting etcetera, is ongoing.”
The CPF believes one of the reasons for the increase in crime is the large number of informal settlements in the area.
“Access to other areas including Diepsloot is easy, because of the N14 highway. Properties are large and policing them is difficult. Muldersdrift is also a difficult area to police – it being a predominantly farming/agricultural area, mixed with the fringe of development including Featherbrook, Silverstar, Pinehaven townhouses, which means a mix of both town and country policing is needed.”
Following the increase in violent crime, people in the area are packing up and leaving, according to the CPF.
“In 95 percent of cases, tenants are moving out immediately, impacting badly on the income of land owners in the area.
“Land owners who have been attacked – possibly 50 percent – put their properties on the market and move out. Due to the overall high crime, a vast amount of properties have been put on the market.”
Residents like Nicky Schimansky, who cannot afford to move out of the Muldersdrift area, says she and her family live each day in fear.
“We are totally devastated each time we hear about the next incident,” said Shimansky.
“I think we are all feeling very stressed and depressed about these murders.”
Shimansky said the crime situation in the area had affected every aspect of their daily existence, including their working lives.
“We are locked in before dark every evening and don’t go out or open the door for anything. I cannot attend evening work functions because I refuse to come home in the dark,” she said.
“In the mornings we have to look out the windows first before we open the front door and we hope and pray that no one is hiding around the corner.”
Shimansky added, however, that she had appreciated the effort the police were putting in to cut down crime in the area.
“The police are promising some solutions, but I think the solutions are taking too long to put in place. Something needs to be done immediately.
“Over the December period we saw a lot more police vehicles in the area. We had vans parked on Clinic Road throughout the day and more patrols at night. However, this has now stopped.”
Shimansky believes the police need to workmore closely with informants and they need to protect and look after these informants.
“They are the people ‘on the streets’ and they have valuable information about criminal elements in the area,” said Shimansky.
“I don’t believe the SAPS is using this resource to its fullest.”
So far, three men have been arrested in connection with several murders and robberies in the Muldersdrift area. There has yet to be an arrest for the six crimes that have taken place this month.
Muldersdrift under siege:
Arrests: The same three men have been linked to this murder and attempted murder.
The same three suspects have been linked to these attacks.
Source: Muldersdrift CPF and the SAPS. Note: The CPF gave the Saturday Star an extensive list of attacks. We have given the police more time to respond in .