Town Centre traders tired of crime

Traders want more law enforcement in Town Centre.

After months of protesting, Town Centre traders are accusing the City of Cape Town of failing to provide sustainable safety measures.

About 100 traders took to the streets on Monday August 15 and Tuesday August 16, marching to the law enforcement office in Beacon Valley where they tabled their grievances. These included illegal drug dealing, the sale of pirate goods and robberies. After receiving no feedback from the City of Cape Town for two days, the traders, who are based at the market, returned to Symphony Lane where they used to ply their trade.

On Thursday August 18, the City stationed two kiosks, manned by law enforcement officers, in Symphony Lane and Minute Lane, but they were only there from 5.30am to 5pm before they were moved again.

According to the City of Cape Town there are 450 legal traders with permits and seven associations operating in the Town Centre.

Kulsum Baker, who has been a trader for 25 years, said their request for more law enforcement officers had fallen on deaf ears. She said the drug merchants were everywhere in the Town Centre, dealing with impunity.

“We have marched and protested for many years, requesting, asking for assistance in terms of safety. But, it looks like they do not care about the shoppers, commuters and traders.

“The City has told us that they do not have the manpower to deploy members to the Town Centre. This now means that we as traders have to suffer because people do not want to come to the Town Centre, illegal goods are being sold and we are being threatened by the merchants,” said Ms Baker.

Trader Jasmine Harris said the CCTV cameras were not effective as break-ins and robberies still occurred.

“I can’t understand why the City cannot secure the CBD, when thousands of residents use the CBD. We need more law enforcement visibility. When the dealers see aunty Kulsum and I then they run, but we cannot monitor the whole area.

“Then, the officers are only visible until 5pm, so when people come from work they are getting mugged. We want to see action from the City.”

JP Smith, Mayoral committee member for safety and security, confirmed that the two kiosks were deployed for a day in the CBD.

He said the law enforcement department deploys the kiosk in line with operational requirements. Mr Smith added that there is an administration process in terms of ownership of the kiosk that needs to be concluded.

When the Plainsman questioned the City about officers deployed at the Town Centre, Mr Smith said: “This depends on operational requirements and the availability of staff. It should also be borne in mind that the contracts of 21 workers employed through the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP) expired at the end of June. There is a possibility that these contract posts will be reinstated soon.”

He said the law enforcement department works on a shift basis, from 8.30am to 5pm or 12.30pm to 9pm in this area, with regular integrated operations with other enforcement agencies including the SAPS, Cape Town Traffic Services and the Metro Police Department.

Ms Baker said some of the traders are allowing the illegal traders to sell their items. “We are all trying to make an honest living. Now we have illegal traders selling items inside the Town Centre, and this cripples our business. Bearing in mind that we were moved by the City from Symphony Lane to the market a few years ago,” she said.

Mr Smith said law enforcement was dealing with the problem in terms of the contravention of the by-laws.

Mr Smith said the CCTV cameras in the Town Centre were effective and in working order.

“Law enforcement communicates on a daily basis with the Metro Police Strategic Surveillance Unit (SSU) to help combat crime,” he said.

Mr Smith the plan of action is the reintroduction of a forum chaired by the local councillor to address issues and concerns.

Mitchell’s Plain police spokesperson Constable Nozuko Makwayiba said the police played a vital role in the CBD and were the key agency on safety matters.

Constable Makwayiba said undercover police officers conducted daily foot patrols and rapid response operations, which were supported by targetted operations during peak periods.

“We are working very well with the City of Cape Town and we receive footage whenever we request and when the City picks up any criminal activity on the CCTV.

“Although we cannot divulge our plans, there has been consistent reduction in crime in the CBD, more specifically in Town Centre. The crime picture was recently presented to the community police forum,” she said.

Constable Makwayiba said there were many drug-related cases, break-ins, robberies and related crimes pertaining Town Centre, pending. She added that there had been improved information flow from the community.

“People can ensure their safety by walking in groups, not carrying the valuables and being alert while talking on one’s cellphone, because cellphones are either being snatched from them or people are being robbed while walking alone and talking on cellphones.

“People must avoid shortcuts. We have also detected that many of the reported crimes such as robberies are false cases. Reports are made so that the complainant can claim (from their insurance) or get another cellphone from the service provider,” she said.

Constable Makwayiba said those who make these false cases would be prosecuted.