Cops caution community as they ’reclaim streets’

Fed-up Lower Crossroads residents demolished the house of an alleged criminal. The community said it was claiming its streets back but the man denied being involved in any illegal activities.

Lower Crossroads residents are reclaiming their community by naming and shaming suspected drug dealers and dismantling their homes.

However, Philippi East Police station commander Colonel Mzwabantu Jada has discouraged the community from taking the law into their hands.

Colonel Jada said destroying somebody else’s property is a crime.

Last Sunday, Lower Crossroads residents protested in one of the streets and demolished the shack of a man they suspected of being involved in drug dealing and home burglaries.

Residents, who asked not to be named, said they were taking back what belongs to them – their streets.

Street committee members said residents have identified homes of those who they believed to be drug dealers, thugs and criminals terrorising the community.

They said they held numerous meetings before taking to the streets to protest against robbery and drug dealing in the community.

“This shack was one of those we identified and then we dismantled it. We decided not to assault anyone but chuck them out of our streets,” a resident said.

One street committee member known to Vukani said: “What the police do not realise is how we are terrorised by these thugs. It is not that we are not reporting these houses and the incidents, but they let us down. They need to thank the community for not killing the criminals whereas they (criminals) kill the community. I applaud the community for demolishing instead of killing,” she said.

She urged the police to monitor the crime rate now that summer holidays are here.

She said during this time people were even robbed of their groceries. “Remember people are not working. Most people lost work during the lockdown. Now with the little they have, they would want to buy clothes for their children and have small groceries just to enjoy Christmas. But guess what will happen, they will be robbed, some even killed. We can’t fold our arms whereas we are terrorised and killed. Crime will escalate,” she said.

But Colonel Jada has warned the community and said they need to refrain from acting above the law and demolishing homes.

“I really discourage what residents and the community have done. Where crime is committed, they need to inform the police. At the same time I encourage citizen arrests but after the arrest, they need to call us. Police are there for them. The demolition of someone’s structure is a crime. Every meeting I attend with the community I preach about this. Basically no one should take the law into his or her hands. Let me repeat that citizen arrest I encourage but I discourage demolishing and assaulting people or chucking them out of the community for that matter. Remember, constitutionally, that is crime,” he said.

Speaking to Vukani, the alleged criminal denied having dealt with drugs or stolen goods.

“I smoke but I do not deal with drugs. I do not keep stolen goods in my house. I was once approached by some robbers to keep their stuff but I refused. The community failed to do a proper investigation. Some know who the real criminals are, not me. But what they did is wrong. I am now homeless,” he told Vukani.