Homelessness and crime: SAPS responds

Evidence of human habitation, the abode of homeless people, in the drains under Main Road near Riverside Centre in Somerset West.

Following articles about homelessness and the alleged link with crime (“Squatter problem persists”, Bolander, May 2, and “Seeking solutions to homelessness, crime problem in Somerset West”, Bolander, June 20), Bolander sought comment in this regard from SAPS Somerset West station commissioner, Colonel Mary Anne Williams.

“Homelessness in Somerset West is a real concern. From our side, regular patrols and operations in partnership with other law enforcement agencies have led to the arrest of many homeless people involve in criminal activities being arrested,” Colonel Williams said. 

“This is a continuous operation as many of the homeless people will return back to the places where they are sleeping. Our community can play a vital role by not giving any form of donations to them, because this attracts them back to our central business area.” 

Concern has been expressed about the number of homes for the aged in the area, and the risks posed to senior citizens by the many homeless people in the area. Colonel Williams said: “In regards to the old age homes, I have not received any formal complaint of crime being committed against the senior residents. Unless homeless people get involved in crime the police cannot just remove them.”

Turning to the problem of homeless people living under the Main Road bridge across the Lourens River at the Riverside Centre, Colonel Williams said: “Many of the homeless people that are residing in the drains at Riverside, resort to becoming protectors or pimps for the prostitutes in the area.”

Colonel Williams also expressed support for the training and appointment of safety officials for the central business district. “This will assist us in our efforts to decrease crime in our central business district,” she said.