Zainab Oyekunle, a trader for the past 15 years, said she had recently been stabbed in a finger in an attempted robbery. “These robbers don’t care; they will just stab us. That’s why I also fought back. I stabbed them back after they stabbed me. The police only arrive much later so we must make a plan to protect ourselves.”
Five years ago, former Parow Arcade Association secretary Kenny Whiteboy organised a petition against crime in the area. The likes of Shoprite, Hungry Lion, Big Star Clothing (which was recently robbed), Ellerines Furnishers, African Bank, Pick * Pay family store and many more signed in the hope of alleviating crime in the area.
A meeting to resolve the matter was held with mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith in 2014 and it was agreed that two law enforcement officers and one SAPS undercover officer would be deployed in the area. Rick O’Connell was the ward councillor at the time.
“It was also decided that the council would restructure the environment so that all traders would be in a single line to make space for emergency vehicles and an environment that would be easy to police,” said Whiteboy.
According to Whiteboy, this helped the situation for just over a month. After that, according to him, law enforcement and the undercover officer left because the council did not come to the party by creating an environment for the police to work.
Since then, he said, it had been a battle to try to stop the crime in the area as he and a few traders believe the Ward 26 councillor Franchesca Walker had failed them.
“The ward councillor has not been able to help us with anything positive. The stop signs on the Station Road were last seen to in 2005. There are three cameras which do not work - how does that help? Shoprite is losing customers because they are being robbed once they have left the shop. Traders are afraid and some don’t make money anymore because people no longer come here,” said Whiteboy.
However, Walker said she has been in touch with the community and business owners in the area. “It was brought to my attention and I did conduct site visits with law enforcement and Metro Police. This happened about a month ago and again two weeks ago. I have been addressing the problem with SAPS.”
Walker said the cameras were fully functional and fed into the Transport Management Centre. “There was also a parliamentary visit done at the Parow police station to get a sense of the lack of resources at the station.”
Walker said plans made to restructure had taken a while, but were ongoing from 2014 and are set to be implemented in the new financial year.
“Myself and a few other key role-players were on a site visit yesterday (Thursday) and plans are under way to restructure Station Arcade.”
Oyekunle, who witnessed Big Star, a business next to her table, being robbed, said there was no way the cameras worked as the robbery took place right under a camera and nothing had been recorded in the two hours that the shop was being cleaned out.
“They may have come two weeks ago to clean the cameras, but for what? They don’t work.”
Police sources said the crime in Station Arcade was bad, especially between 12pm and 4pm.
“The crime here is bad; sometimes we see some people taking pictures of us when we stop and search people. We don’t know why, but we see that happen. We patrol here, but the crime is just too much.”
“There is no unity among the authorities. SAPS blames law enforcement for not doing something, law enforcement blames the council and that’s why nothing is happening - there needs to be unity,” said Whiteboy.
He said it was sad to see that the older criminals used children to commit certain crimes like grabbing people’s chains and stealing phones.
“The bigger guys are just there for support if something goes wrong, but it is the kids who are committing the bulk of the crime.”
Taxi association chairperson for Deflt and Belhar Ivan Waldeck said intimidation and robbery in the area needed to be controlled.
He said taxi drivers were afraid because they were being intimidated and robbed of their money.
“Some of the commuters are no longer coming into the area and this is also affecting the businesses here. I still appeal to police and law enforcement to be more visible.”
Ernest van Wyk, a trader, said the saddest thing was watching old people being robbed as they came out of Shoprite. “These criminals don’t care. It starts from early in the morning and goes well into the evening. And the police do nothing; they arrive three hours later. They come to us and ask directly ‘What did you see?’ Now you tell me how we are supposed to be the eyes and ears for the police while the criminals are watching them talk to us, how?”
“Gatvol’ is what Paul Gouveia of Porto Santo Butchery feels about the crime. “My staff are getting robbed on the way to work. After work, they are then too scared to go home. The crime is just shocking.”
A trader of 30 years, Jerry Koen, said he had recently intervened while a crime was taking place. He said that a woman had been buying goods from him when about five or six men surrounded her and tried to rip her chain off. He helped the woman, but was afraid this would hinder his business as already he has fewer customers.
“With the crime like this people will just go to the mall instead; this is my livelihood, something needs to be done.”
Whiteboy said Shoprite was being affected and was also at risk of closing down because of the decrease in customers, who are fearing the trip to the store.
Shoprite’s media team said it was unfortunate that all areas across the country experienced incidents of crime at one time or another.
“Shoprite has no information at hand that Parow is being targeted specifically and has no plans to close its store. The supermarket chain is always willing to work with local authorities to assist with any information to aid in foiling crime in its communities.” its statement read.
The Universal Church further down the road was broken into three times in less than six months, according to Pastor Michael Mntumze.
“Truth is Parow is becoming a drug empire. All drug agencies are here and that is why there is so much crime. The number of people coming to this area is decreasing day by day.”