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Effingham residents living in fear after murder

Effingham residents say they have been asking for access to the park to be limited so to prevent easy escapes by criminals.

SINCE the shooting of a young man in Bhoola Road park in Effingham recently, residents in the area say they don’t feel safe.

The young man was robbed of his wallet in the presence of his girlfriend and then shot dead at the end of May.

The crime took place in the park across the road from the house of Mala Kista. She told Northglen News that it was like a movie scene.

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“When I heard the gunshots, I immediately took cover and got down to the ground. It was frightening and traumatising. I had no idea what was happening. All I could hear were gunshots. It stopped, and then I heard a few more gunshots in the distance,” she said.

A few minutes later, she learnt that a young man had been robbed and shot in the park, and the perpetrators had run into Sim Place Settlement a few hundred metres from her home. She then figured out that more shots were probably fired in the informal settlement.

“We’ve asked ward councillor Bobby Maharajh to have a fence installed around the park to limit access. We understand that it is a public facility and should be accessible to everyone, however, if there were entry and exit points, we feel criminals would not use it as a thoroughfare to escape after committing crimes,” said Kista.

Naidoo, who echoes Kista’s concerns, said Maharajh told residents that a fence could not be erected as it was an open space and there was no budget. Although there is an outdoor gym in the park, they say the facility is not being maintained.

“We understand the protocol around open spaces, however, a life has been lost. At what cost must we follow the rules? There are criminal activities in this area daily, and they aren’t committed by the residents of Sim Place informal settlement. It’s people from other areas who see opportunities for crime here and then escape into the settlement because it’s easy to hide in there,” said Naidoo.

The residents also said they asked Maharajh about utilising the Block Sum budget to erect the fence, but there was no response.

“We would like more support from the ward councillor on this matter as safety is a priority. The crime in the area is also negatively affecting our property values which have dwindled. Nobody can sell their property here because nobody will invest here. Effingham used to be a sought-after area, but that is no longer the case,” said Kista, a resident of the suburb for 30 years.

The residents also said there isn’t a strong enough police presence from Greenwood Park SAPS, and this was something they were hoping would change so that it could serve as a deterrent to criminals.

The open space where the shooting took place.

Maharajh responds

“The most recent request for a fence to be erected at Bhoola Road park was forwarded to the Parks Department. Some years ago, I did receive a request for this area to be fenced, and it was refused based on the fact that this is an open space,” said Maharajh.

He said the Parks Department’s budget for this period does not provide for the fencing of the park and that the Block Sum budget, allocated to ward councillors to use for the wards they are responsible for, had been used for other commitments.

“These commitments were not not attended to in the past because of a lack of funds,” he added.

With regard to the outdoor gym not being maintained, he said he did not request it and therefore has no idea who is responsible for it.

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CPF involvement

Charles Naidoo, chairman of Greenwood Park Community Policing forum and Sub-Forum 2, said a constructive meeting was held on Sunday to discuss resident’s concerns about crime in the area.

“It seems that after the murder of the young man in Bhoola Road, people have become more aware of crime in the area. There is no escalation or decrease in serious crime, according to our statistics,” he said.

With regards to eradicating crime, he said residents from the different sectors, together with stakeholders, have to work together.

“To be honest, I don’t think that a fence around this open space is going to bring down crime because who would control the entry and exit points? I fear it would cause animosity between the formal and informal residents as this park is used for sport by many residents,” said Naidoo.

He added that a committee is being set up to deal with this issue specifically.

“They will engage with SAPS, law enforcement securities and the like to find a way forward. I must stress to residents that it is important to attend CPF meetings where information on criminal activity and how to possibly prevent it are shared,” said Naidoo.

Greenwood Park SAPS

Spokesperson for Greenwood Park SAPS Constable Zenzele Chonco said police will do regular patrols in the area and surroundings.

“We will also ensure that we work closely with security companies and do awareness campaigns on these types of crimes. We do regular patrols during the day and even at night to try and combat crime in order to achieve a safe and secure environment for all the people of South Africa,” said Chonco.

“We ensure that we are visible enough in our communities as visibility is our primary objective,” he added.

Should a community member witness a crime or have any crime-related information, they should contact Greenwood Park SAPS on 031 571 6512, SAPS emergency on 10111 or Crime Stop on 086 000 10111. All calls are confidential.

 

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