Neighbourhood crime fighters in Bridgetown and Langa have joined forces to stop muggings on a footbridge between the two communities.
Many use the footbridge over the N2 to get to work or school despite its reputation in the community as a crime hot spot.
But the Bridgetown Neighbourhood Watch and Langa Safety Patrol say there have been no reports of crime on the bridge since they started patrolling there two weeks ago.
“There are a lot of children crossing here on their way to and from school without any supervision. This makes them vulnerable and many have been robbed of their cellphones,” said Igshaan Baradien, the co-ordinator of the Bridgetown Neighbourhood Watch. “Even adults who work in the area and who use the footbridge have also been robbed.”
It would appear that none of these cases is being reported to the Athlone police because they have no record of muggings on the bridge, according to spokeswoman Sergeant Zita Norman.
Nevertheless, Sergeant Norman said they supported the crime-fighting initiative and it was good that the two communities were working together.
The two groups deploy patrollers on either side of the bridge during peak times. They also want to clear nearby bushes so that criminals can’t use them to hide.
The partnership gives muggers less room to manoeuvre, according to Bandile Gcuwa, the chairman of the Langa Safety Patrol.
“Our collaboration creates only a small space for the perpetrators to move in. There is a huge need to collaborate. We are starting small now, but the idea is to eventually have all neighbourhood watch and safety patrol groups collaborate from all the nearby communities.”
Criminals had become so brazen in Langa, he said, that they would kick in a front door to take a TV while the family was still watching it.
“Some of the perpetrators run to Bridgetown when they have robbed people in Langa, using the footbridge. They even rob people of their lunch boxes,” Mr Gcuwa said.
The patrollers made residents feel safer, said Mr Baradien.
“When the people see us here on their way to work, they thank us. They feel safer when they see us here.”
The patrollers aren’t paid, but both groups said they hoped that would change soon.
“Most of us are unemployed, which was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic where many lost their jobs,” said Mr Gcuwa.
“We are familiar with the area, so we will know where to look for the perpetrators. It has been a tough four years for us, since our establishment… We still need support, however, and not just financial, but in other ways as well. We will highly appreciate that.
“We are not only cleaning the streets for ourselves but for our children as well because we want to create a good, fruitful environment for the future generations.”
Mr Baradien said his watch had spoken to Ward 49 councillor Rashid Adams about a stipend and sourcing equipment to cut down the bushes around the footbridge.
Mr Adams said the decision on the stipend was not his to make but he had asked the watch to draw up a proposal he could give to the City’s safety and security directorate.
“This is all at the very beginning stages, and I cannot confirm that they will receive a stipend,” Mr Adams said.