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Window washers arrested, then what?

Metro Police Officers deal with a group of street vendors who are using a fiber-optic man-hole to store their goods in at Commando Road Industria. Picture: Timothy Bernard 19.08.2014

Metro Police Officers deal with a group of street vendors who are using a fiber-optic man-hole to store their goods in at Commando Road Industria. Picture: Timothy Bernard 19.08.2014

Published Feb 13, 2015

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Johannesburg - Plans to deal with the beggars, hawkers, window washers and vagrants after they are removed from the streets of Joburg are not clear cut.

This comes after the city’s metro police launched an operation to arrest those found loitering and accused of contributing to crime around highways, byways, intersections and streets.

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Despite the elaborate mission to rid the streets of hawkers, window washers and beggars, there is no clear indication on what protocol followed the arrests.

Joburg metro police department (JMPD) spokesman Chief Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said the arrests they make are based on the violation of the city’s by-laws.

Once they are arrested, JMPD officers take them to a police station and the case is handed over to the SAPS, who are then responsible for the matter.

“It then depends on the particular station and the courts on what happens next,” Minnaar said.

He admitted that washing windscreens, begging or selling goods at the side of the street was not a serious crime.

However, the operation, known as Ke Molao (It’s the Law), launched on Wednesday, was the result of the spike in criminal activity around certain main intersections in Joburg.

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These included smash-and-grabs, hijackings, robberies and assaults, largely committed by window washers, beggars and hawkers.

Metro officers will now patrol the streets in marked and unmarked police cars at hotspots.

Though the operation was ongoing, the JMPD has pumped more resources, including several more officers and a fleet of vehicles, into the initiative. “We now have more resources and a zero-tolerance approach,” Minnaar said.

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Provincial spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said once the offenders were brought into a police station, a case would be opened according to the violation of the by-law.

It would then be transferred to the National Prosecuting Authority, which would handle the matter in relation to the court appearances.

But Joburg NPA spokeswoman Phindi Louw said the basis of the particular cases was solely dependent on the police, as their investigations would depend on whether the case goes to court.

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“We need to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the crimes were committed,” Louw said. “To do this, we need to see what evidence is available and if there are any witnesses who can testify in the matter.”

Claims have also been made that different police stations treat the situation differently, with some even letting the offenders go free without charging them.

Warrant Officer Thomas de Bruyn, the duty officer at Joburg Central police station, said there was no standard procedure as to what happens to these offenders.

“When the JMPD brings them in, a case is opened and they might appear in court, be fined, or their items could be confiscated,” De Bruyn said.

Sergeant Bongi Mdletshe of the Hillbrow cluster said that when window washers, beggars or street vendors are brought in they are charged with loitering.

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The Star

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