Councillor Johnson Chetty at the abandoned state home in Russom Street, Verulam.
Councillor Johnson Chetty at the abandoned state home in Russom Street, Verulam.

Abandoned SAPS houses in Verulam a ‘crime den’

By Janine Moodley Time of article published Apr 23, 2021

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Durban: A mud-stained teddy bear, broken bottles, shattered windows, dense bush and the stench of faeces are all that remain at abandoned state-owned SAPS homes in Brindhaven, Verulam.

The homes, in Russom Street, were formerly occupied by police captains, who moved out of the area two years ago. Residents say the homes are now used by drug addicts and for criminal activities.

One of the homes is situated next to the Verulam SAPS but complaints to the station’s management, some residents claim, have been ignored.

Last Thursday, a high school pupil was stabbed near the abandoned homes and his cellphone, wallet and school shoes were stolen. Two weeks earlier, a jogger was accosted and robbed of his cellphone.

A state-owned home is allegedly used by drug addicts and for criminal activity.

“There is an influx of crime, especially petty theft, as a result of this vacant property,” said Sam Govender, who moved into the area four years ago.

“The sugar addicts use these spots as hideouts and a trading place. Once some of the residents entered the premises to see who is using the property. We found bedding and other personal belongings to suggest that someone is using the place but we could not find the person or the people.”

Govender, who is also part of the Brindhaven Neighbourhood Watch, said he contacted senior management at the police station to intervene but there was allegedly no feedback.

“Councillor Johnson Chetty is assisting to escalate the matter to the relevant provincial government department. People are always looking for homes to buy or rent. Why not put the site to better use instead of it sitting vacant and attracting unneeded crime? I am sure the property can be redeemed and salvaged for someone who is in need to use."

The remains at a home. Picture: Janine Moodley

Vishal Dhudibal, a fellow resident and chairperson of the Brindhaven Civic Association, said he had also addressed the matter with the local police. He said there had been various incidents of petty crime over the past month.

“Every day criminals are stealing from the area and using the home as a storage facility at night. In the morning, they leave and sell the stolen items. The property is an eyesore and a hazard. It’s also in the vicinity of two schools. Today it could be petty crime and tomorrow a tragedy. We (should) rather nip the problem in the bud while we still can.”

Dhudibal said there was a pathway from Inanda Road to the nearby Mountview Secondary School.

“Pupils were stopped, searched and robbed. Just last week, a pupil was robbed and stabbed. The primary school is in the vicinity and kids often play around that house. It is scary to think about what could happen. It seems the owners of this property do not care about the consequences of the vacant land.”

He suggested the property be turned into a victim-friendly facility, where the victims of crime could receive trauma counselling.

“The government could even give it to the primary school, as additional facilities to assist pupils.”

A fellow resident said he often saw suspicious activity taking place at the site.

“Some people come to see what they can take from the home ...”

Johnson Chetty, the ward councillor, said he approached government officials last May but the excuses for them not having visited the property since then included the Covid-19 pandemic and bad weather conditions. He said the property was initially used by white officers during apartheid and that it was subsequently used by other police as part of their subsidised housing.

Chetty said the R102 was at the bottom of Russom Street and that drug addicts were taking drugs and sleeping in the vacant homes.

“They also commit crimes and use this as a hideout. It is rather ironic that in Verulam, crime is aided and abetted indirectly by SAPS. I have done what I could to persuade SAPS management to take responsibility for this property, which is registered with public works. All I got were excuses for the site inspection which never happened.

“It’s rather sad that SAPS has failed to patrol and remove the illegal vagrants that occupied the property, despite promises. This sorry state of affairs is symptomatic of an uncaring and unaccountable government which treats its people with contempt.”

The police and the Department of Public Works had not commented by the time of publication.

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