MOSSEL BAY NEWS - There is an African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child." Yet, what happens to the child if the people in the village just don't care about it anymore?
This is the moral dilemma that seemingly is taking a grip on life in KwaNonqaba, where crime statistics are on the rise and domestic violence is at worrying levels.
The station commissioner of the KwaNonqaba police station, Lieut-Col Johann Braaff, this week expressed his deep concern as statistics indicate the area experienced an increase of several types of criminal activity during the past two months.
"There has been a rise in the reported cases of robberies, common assault and assault with intent to do serious bodily harm. Very worrying, is the increase in cases of domestic violence, more so as crime intelligence indicates that it is not a matter of repeat offences or repeat victims, but instead new cases being reported. An area such as KwaNonqaba should not have up to 60 or 80 cases of domestic violence reported per month."
"There seems to be a number of hot spots where people are regularly robbed of valuables such as cellular phones and other electronic equipment. Residents should take extra care along the main arteries such as Adriaans Road, and Mayixhale Road, and particularly at the Scholtz Street intersection.
Other areas where we've experienced increases in robberies and theft are along Mabolo, Mzola, and Tembalihle streets. When using these roads especially, but also in general, residents should take care not to openly flaunt their expensive possessions, and if possible not to walk alone, specifically not after dark," Col Braaff said.
He warned that there had also been a spike in house break-ins. It would seem perpetrators target homes where the owner works late often, or even works a night shift, and the homes of people who work at any of the major employers in town.
"It is seldom reported when a theft occurs in the informal settlements as in most cases these areas are targeted for food and consumables that can almost instantly be sold," the colonel said.
When asked to what he ascribed the rising trend in crime, Col Braaff said a number of parolees had recently been released, some of whom were known for the kinds of criminal acts now escalating in number. Correctional Services have instituted new national criteria regarding sentences.
"Someone with a criminal record struggles to again integrate into the community. The economic downturn makes finding a job almost impossible. Businesses are closing down, contractors finish work and leave their workers behind. We now find that perpetrators work in groups of three or four when they rob someone. When people are released from prison, they have the same physical needs as anyone else - they also need to eat and buy food.
"We are also experiencing an influx of people from, especially the Eastern Cape, but also from neighbouring countries. The easy money comes from getting involved in the drug trade. The unemployed are easy targets for unscrupulous drug lords who employ them to ply their trade.
"We experience an increase in backyard dwellings. Nowhere else in town are people allowed to live in makeshift 'pozi's' in backyards, but municipal by-laws are not strictly enforced here. Where is the municipal enforcement of building regulations? The proliferation of backyard structures and illegal dwellings makes policing very difficult as it is virtually impossible to establish who may rightfully be on a property or whether that person lives there.
It also speaks to the general living conditions that affect the dignity of the people living there. In informal settlements, communal toilets are built on the edges of the community, making it dangerous especially for women and children to use. Areas are filthy and inadequately cleaned.
"There is very little if any control over the trade in liquor and the legal official hours that taverns may trade allows for drinking until 02:00. That means people still stagger home at 04:00. The municipality determines the trading hours.
"With unemployment rife, opportunistic crimes escalate. There is an easy and ready market for electronic gear; it is small and easily transportable and easily concealed."
What to do
Colonel Braaff said he could not stress enough the need for the community to help the police help them.
"This community never sleeps; there is always someone about on the streets. Yet, when a crime is committed, people are afraid to become involved; they are afraid of having to testify. We need greater community involvement. We need the community to draw the line, to report suspicious behaviour, not to harbour the perpetrators of crime.
We need the community to again place their trust in the ability of the justice system to effectively deal with criminals.
"I personally invite the community to participate in imbizos and to engage with us. We need more street committees, neighbourhood watches and community structures that will act against crime. The community should increasingly take up its role as our partners in the war against crime."
When asked whether the KwaNonqaba Police Station is adequately equipped to serve a community the size of KwaNonqaba, Dana Bay as well as the rural communities of Vleesbaai, Boggomsbaai and Herbertsdale, Col Braaff said the good news was that land for a new police station had been acquired behind the KwaNonqaba Mall.
It takes a village to raise a child, they say. It also takes a village to protect a child, to take a stand and say no to crime, and to pursue the mores and values that nurture a child.
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