Cape Town - Crime, grime and a lack of visible policing in the CBD – especially in Long Street – is placing the safety of tourists and officers working in the area at risk, say business owners.
There’s been a “huge uptake of illegal activities” in recent years, said John van der Spuy of Steer & Company, which has been in Longmarket Street for the past 20 years.
“This is made possible because the municipal policing presence has declined so that it is practically invisible in our part of town.”
In an open letter to the City of Cape Town and other city-based property companies, Van der Spuy said that on any given day, there were between four and eight metered taxis parked illegally on street corners. When confronted, the drivers – many of them foreign – claimed to have no knowledge of South African traffic rules.
He also complained about the general disregard for road rules, with motorists regularly jumping red lights and parking illegally.
Drumming on pavements in the afternoon and on Saturdays also caused a “gross disturbance” to tenants in surrounding flats and office blocks.
Juanine Dawes from Nomnom, a pizza restaurant, said she had noticed an increase in crime in the past six months.
“It turns bad after midnight.”
Pickpocketing was one of the biggest problems.
Khairul Islam from Bollywood Café said he was once fined R500 for double-parking in front of his shop – a sedan taxi had parked in the loading zone in front of his shop.
Jeff Njenga from Still Life, an arts and craft store, said he had noticed a rising trend in ATM robberies, with tourists the prime targets.
JP Smith, mayoral committee member forsafety and security, said the city understood the concerns of business owners, and it was doing all it could to fight crime and grime in the CBD and elsewhere. “Our resources are finite and it is challenging to decide how best to deploy these, given the many areas of need, including ongoing land invasions and protest actions and gang violence.”
The city controlled 3 percent of policing resources through the metro police, with the rest up to national government through the police.
However, the metro police CCTV control room kept a close watch.
These cameras picked up 975 incidents in the city centre between July and September, which led to 121 arrests for antisocial behaviour, including drug-related offences.
Dave Bryant, ward councillor for the CBD, agreed more needed to be done to make the area safer. City’s law enforcement worked with the Central City Improvement District and police to deal with illegal parking and other violations.
“In terms of crime, the CBD has seen a reduction of 90 percent over the past 15 years, and incidents of violent crime are extremely low compared with the rest of the city. We know we can do more though and vigilance is key.”
The city was changing its legislation to better regulate metered taxis.