Johannesburg - Ten people were arrested when the City of Johannesburg conducted a crime prevention operation at several hijacked properties in Hillbrow, Johannesburg on Friday night, the city said.
The buildings targeted included Sandringham, Stensby Hof, and a hijacked church on the corner of Wolmarans and Edith Cavell streets in Hillbrow, mayor Herman Mashaba said on Saturday.
"A total of four suspects who are wanted for various crimes were arrested after they were identified through the morpho-touch fingerprint device," he said.
Two people were arrested for illegal possession of drugs, three undocumented foreign nationals were arrested, and one suspect was arrested for being in possession of numerous South African identity documents. Several cases of alcohol were also confiscated from illegal shebeens operating at Sandringham.
"It is essential that we bring back the rule of law in our city and take it back from the criminal elements such as landlords who take advantage of desperate people and house them under deplorable conditions.
"I am pleased by the South African Police Service (SAPS) Gauteng provincial commissioner Lt-Gen Deliwe de Lange’s acknowledgement of the serious challenges posed by hijacked buildings in the inner city and their clear commitment to work together with the city to tackle this problem," Mashaba said.
The support of the home affairs department was also crucial to the success of these raids. The city had been made aware of the "internal problems" affecting their support for these operations.
"I hope that these issues are resolved soon so that we can continue to tackle the challenges posed by hijacked building," he said.
The operation was led by the city’s group forensic and investigation services unit in conjunction with the SAPS, home affairs department, the Johannesburg metropolitan police department (JMPD), emergency management services (EMS), and the city’s environmental health, citizen relationship, and urban management and social development departments.
The operation also focused on collecting data on the occupants living in the buildings, including sex, age, and employment status.
"It is vital that we profile occupants living in these buildings and ensure that together with the rightful owners we are able to find alternative accommodation for them where required.
"I want to see rundown buildings turned into quality low-cost housing for our residents and affordable rental spaces for small businesses. We are committed to ensuring that we stop the rot in our inner city and make it a prosperous and inclusive place for our people to live, work, and play. I would like to thank all the role-players involved in last night’s [Friday] successful operation," Mashaba said.