Unfenced railways used as escape routes

Unfenced railways are being used as a thoroughfare for criminals escaping the Town Centre and shopping centres dotted along the Mitchell’s Plain rail network.

This was a point of discussion at the last Mitchell’s Plain Business Against Crime Forum (BACF) meeting at Liberty Promenade mall on Thursday November 24, days after a branded clothing and shoe shop was robbed in the Lentegeur centre.

The thieves ran across the railway line and disappeared into the Portland residential area.

The BACF, representing local business owners and hawkers in the Mitchell’s Plain central business district, the industrial hive and Liberty Promenade, meets every month.

In response to a Plainsman enquiry to Metrorail about fencing along the railway line, spokeswoman Riana Scott said: “Crime is on the increase in general and rail precincts are not exempt from criminal attempts.”

Ms Scott said criminal elements have been known to access private property via public areas and generally residents are responsible for securing their own premises.

She said Metrorail does its utmost to replace or mend fencing as soon as it is damaged.

“Regrettably, it can only do so within the confines of resources available to it. This within the context that the purpose of railway fencing is primarily to demarcate boundaries and most fencing will not deter wilful entry,” she said.

Ms Scott said in many instances the fencing is still serviceable for its intended purpose.

Fencing replacement and repairs are planned and prioritised annually in terms of urgency or necessity and implemented according to available funding.

“Due to the vastness of the region and resources available, replacement or repair has to be prioritised against other pressing and equally valid projects,” she said.

Funyanwa Gade, Metrorail area manager for Lentegeur, Mitchell’s Plain and Kapteinsklip stations, said she has engaged with Portland residents in Block K, who started constructing a wall to replace parts of a stolen palisade fence, which barred access to the railway line, across from the Liberty Promenade shopping centre.

The residents had collected donations and hosted fund-raisers to buy concrete mix and during weekends, did repair work (“Portland residents tired of drugs and crime,” Plainsman August 31).

Ms Gade said the residents have been faced with the neighbours complaining about the wall because they want easy access.

Cassiem Gamiet, chairman of the forum, said the community was to blame for the vandalism.

”They know who the thieves are and that the stolen fence is being sold to local scrap yards,” he said.

During the meeting, he called on Ms Gade and business owners to involve local neighbourhood watch members to increase visibility and to secure the areas with people who live and know their environment.

Solomon Philander, councillor for Ward 79, which includes the Town Centre, reported that 33 Mitchell’s Plain Neighbourhood Watch Association members will receive a stipend, in accordance with the Mayoral Urban Regeneration Programme (MURP), including three supervisors.

The MURP has set aside
R8 million for the safety and security of eight business nodes namely Mitchell’s Plain Town Centre, Harare and Kuyasa interchange precinct; Bellville transport interchange precinct and Voortrekker Road corridor; Wesfleur Business node (Atlantis); Athlone CBD and Gatesville; Ocean View and Macassar.

Each node will receive its quota to recruit 10 people as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme to enforce by-laws.

Similarly SAPS, law enforcement, Metro police and traffic are due to have joint operations to ensure a safer Town Centre.

Mr Gamiet encouraged Ms Gade and others present to speak to Mr Philander to ensure as many areas are secure and have access to law enforcement agencies, especially during the festive season.

Ms Gade said there is a need for law enforcement and patrols to take place at Kapteinsklip station, which beach-goers would be frequenting the festive season.

Mr Gamiet also encouraged the public to report incidents of theft, robberies and assaults to the police as it may have been recorded on CCTV footage at the Town Centre, close to the railway, shopping centres and the hive.

Sulaiman Petersen, chairperson of Hawkers Against Crime, asked that lighting be improved in the Town Centre, as commuters often had to walk in the dark; and that darkness and yellow lighting prevented clear footage from being recorded on CCTV cameras.

After the meeting, Captain Harry Brickles, from Mitchell’s Plain police station, went to view CCTV camera footage of a shooting, across from Liberty Promenade mall last week. A gang member was shot during a revenge attack.