Walkers, joggers, event hosts and picnic enthusiasts are worried about their safety as crime is rife at Westridge Gardens.
Westridge Gardens, renowned for its rose garden and indigenous Cape fynbos, is a popular setting for weddings, children’s parties, community events and concerts and has been the venue of the growing annual Mitchell’s Plain Festival since its inception almost 14 years ago.
Shinaaz Adjiet, from Women Walking to Wellness who walks in the gardens every day says there is no security and police visibility.
They have taken to walking with pepper spray, whistles and tasers as they have witnessed or foiled muggings, thefts and vandalism.
“Our ladies travel by vehicle and use the street parking outside the gardens, while performing our fitness activities, there have been a few incidents where our vehicles have been vandalised – hubcaps and aerials stolen. Besides these crimes, there have been other reports of harassment within the park from other groups, as well as families.
“We realise that we live in a high crime area, but also would like to feel safe while we are focusing on our health,” she said.
Ms Adjiet said people went to the gardens to destress but on return to their vehicles or while on their walk they were being disturbed and left with more stress.
At the weekend she contacted Ashley Potts, councillor for Ward 81, which covers Westridge, Westgate and parts of Rocklands, to raise alarm about the safety of garden users.
“We have this beautiful place at the heart of our Mitchell’s Plain.
“We are so proud of our garden and so proud of our place but we do not feel safe,” she said.
Ms Adjiet also runs an events company and has hosted parties and weddings in the gardens.
She said the escalation of crime in the gardens should not be tolerated.
Mr Potts told the Plainsman yesterday, Tuesday March 21, that he has received safety concerns from garden users.
“I have received many concerns about feeling unsafe due to suspicious looking characters who frequent the park.
“Given the WhatsApp messages and calls I have been getting over the past three weeks, I would have to concede to the concern of the possibility that crime is increasing in the park,” he said.
Mr Potts said a more comprehensive way of dealing with the concerns was needed and recommended the relevant municipal department consider additional security patrols with greater frequency between shifts.
“I would also like to encourage the garden users to call the City help line for any emergency whenever they feel unsafe so law enforcement agents could be deployed,” he said.
Mitchell’s Plain police station spokesperson Sergeant Zandi Langa said they could not confirm an increase in crime at the gardens.
“There have been no formal cases reported for investigation instead the affected community is reporting crime on social media,” she said.
Sergeant Langa advised the public to report crime and open cases so that police could keep a record of incidents.
Anyone with complaints can call facility manager Zandiswa Qoma on 021 400 6094 or email email@example.com
Patricia Van der Ross, mayoral committee member for community services and health, said they were working closely with police and law enforcement to find solutions around the increase in incidents at Westridge Gardens.
“Law Enforcement has successfully mitigated against informal traders illegally trying to establish stalls at the entrance and are working in partnership with recreation and parks and social development in addressing the City-wide challenges with homelessness,” she said.
Ms Van der Ross said all incidents brought to the attention of management on site were escalated to both agencies.
She said increased visibility through patrols and an increase in funding for day shift security or expanded public works programme (EPWP) workers on site were being considered.
“We encourage the public to be vigilant and exercise caution by being alert and reporting any suspicious activity in the park either to the recreation and parks office on-site or to security personnel,” she said.
Crime, vandalism or suspicious activity in progress can be reported to the City’s public emergency communication centre by calling 021 480 7700 from a cell phone or 107 from a landline.