Spotlight on crime, vagrancy, illegal building

Vagrants living in open fields, parks and canals are the cause of dumping in Summer Greens, say residents. This dumping hot spot is near the railway.

Crime, vagrancy and the flouting of City building regulations were the hot topics at a public meeting in Summer Greens last week.

About 60 residents, along with City officials, Law Enforcement officers and ward councillor Anthony Benadie, attended the meeting organised last Thursday by the Summer Greens Ratepayers’ Association.

Linah Dube, from the City’s land use department, explained how the municipality dealt with applications for property extensions and land-use applications.

“Part of the process allows the applicant or the objectors to appeal the decision made by the appeal authority. In terms of how we advertise applications, there is a notification operating procedure on the City’s website which we use as a guide to how we advertise certain applications. The type of application will determine the extent of advertising. Bigger applications that affect more people will have more advertising coverage,” she said.

Public participation, she conceded, could be undermined by inefficiencies in the postal service or the City not having a full database of all interested and affected parties.

Asked whether the more than 15 spaza shops in the community were legal, Ms Dube advised residents to submit official complaints or enquiries to the City.

Former SGRA chairman Gary Jacobs complained that City building inspectors were failing the community.

“The building inspectors are useless. We have inspectors that come in the community and see buildings that have been built without proper documentation and some buildings you can see didn’t follow any plans. But the inspectors are turning a blind eye. We never get a response from them when we send queries. I also want to know how and when decisions are made on these building applications.”

Summer Greens Neighbourhood Watch chairman Craig Alexander said their crime stats for the year so far showed 91 crimes had been reported to the watch but only 17 of those had been reported to the police.

“Of these 91 crimes, 35 were street robberies, 24 property theft, 22 attempted and successful house burglaries, seven car thefts and three other crimes,” he said.

“We are not sharing information like this to create anxiety for residents. However, this is to show transparency and to show our residents to be more vigilant.

“The one thing I want residents to do is to report any and all crimes. SAPS won’t know our crime numbers and think this is not a major issue if people don’t report. And I can guarantee that there have been more than 91 crime incidents.”

Senior Inspector Janine Williams, from City Law Enforcement, advised residents to stop giving handouts to vagrants as they only encouraged them to stay and keep begging.

“That is why they have camped out on the open field, in the canals and even at parks. They feel comfortable here because residents are of a giving nature. If people don’t give the vagrants, they will not see a need to stay in the area,” she said.

“I know people have also asked if we can remove vagrants – unfortunately, we can only remove people with a court order. That process can also take long, but we have to follow the law.”

Resident Thembeka Klaas told Tabletalk after the meeting that vagrants posed a health and safety risk for the community.

“The illegal dumping going on in this community is mostly done by vagrants. They scratch bins and whatever they don’t want they just dump wherever they please. This, of course, is a health risk to everyone. With all the vagrants, we start to see new faces in the community because other homeless people see that it is fun living in Summer Greens because residents are giving. This then becomes a safety issue. Something has to be done about this.”