Stuart Pringle, Ward 84 councillor
Crime affects all of us and any incident where our rights are violated understandably leads to frustration and anger, but resorting to taking the law into one’s own hands places people at risk of physical injury or even death. It is both counter-productive and illegal.
The incident which occurred this weekend does not reflect who we are as a community. Two residents who had suffered a burglary of their home chose to investigate the matter themselves and approach the people they suspected of the crime – a group of street people occupying the pipes beneath the Main Road in Somerset West – instead of laying a charge with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and allowing the law to take its course.
The social media posts on Facebook seeking to link the people living under the pipes with this particular crime, without any evidence other than their proximity to Somerset West and their poverty, do far more harm than good.
We are all concerned about crime, which is why so many of us actively support the neighbourhood watch by patrolling the streets in an effort to assist the SAPS in their work.
But we cannot resort to taking enforcement into our own hands and this point has been stressed at every meeting where the SAPS addresses the public.
It is just as illegal as the crimes we purport to fight, in addition to being very dangerous. SAPS is the primary agency in the fight against crime, and residents must report crimes to them in order to direct their efforts and keep the SAPS accountable.
The City has allocated additional resources to deal with the situation at the pipes under the Main Road, both from an engineering and social development point of view. The regular removal of people living in the pipes is a short-term solution as they return or move elsewhere in the ward.
Last week, Mayco member for Area East, Anda Ntsodo, outlined what the City is doing to address homelessness in the area, and the people living in the pipes specifically.
Included in this plan of action are the ongoing operations by law enforcement and social development to assist people living in the pipes in the long-term, the engineers investigating ways in which the pipes can be made uninhabitable without compromising their stormwater capacity, and working even closer with the non-governmental organisations who seek to reintegrate people living on the streets into the community.
We are a caring community who built the night shelter in Somerset West, and run and support both it and the Helderberg Street People’s Centre, whose volunteers work tirelessly to reintegrate people living on the streets into the community.
As a community we will continue to tackle the separate issues of crime and people living on the streets.