Take back the streets

2013-11-14 00:00

PIETERMARITBURG residents have made it clear — they are taking back their streets from criminals.

At a packed meeting in Clarendon last night, more than 100 runners and community members formed an action plan to continue “living a normal life”, enjoying their streets and homes in the face of crime. People from across the city attended and all expressed the same sentiment: a bid to show unity in the fight against crime for the betterment of society.

The meeting followed the rape of a prominent city doctor who had been jogging in Villiers Drive on Monday morning. After the attack, the woman crawled to safety and was found lying against a fence by passer-by Clive Henderson, who raised the alarm.

Henderson and his wife Margie said at last night’s meeting that the time had come for residents to build courage and be pro-active in not “giving up our streets”.

“We want to find a way to ensure that we can continue living here normally and for our women, especially, who venture out on their own, to be safe. We cannot fix the world, but we can certainly fix our part of the world,” said Henderson.

Quoting English statesman Winston Churchill, Henderson said the time had come to “defend our island”, and they would not surrender.

His wife said she was impressed by the concern shown in the wake of the incident.

“At times like this, people are angry and want to lash out. Our purpose is not to form a vigilante group, but rather to find a positive way forward,” she said.

Suggestions for the safety of runners included forming a social media group where runners could alert one another to threats; running in groups; following designated routes; having staggered starting times; and employing more security.

Currently Clarendon employs the Bobbies on the Beat system, where the major roads have guards on duty. But concern was expressed over the lack of support for the project, despite it having reduced crime.

Chairperson of the Lower Clarendon Community Association, Rob Evans, said there had been a 50%reduction in crime in the area since the system was introduced five years ago.

“Having this presence serves as a major deterrent, but it is clearly not enough. We have one Bobby covering three roads, and it is impossible for him to be everywhere. When this incident happened, the Bobby was in Taunton Road. We need more residents to subscribe to this service, so we can increase the number of Bobbies,” he said.

Locals raised the issue of personal safety.

“Having security personnel helps, but 90% of the time it comes down to your vigilance over your personal safety. Ladies should consider running in groups, carrying cellphones and self-defence items such as pepper sprays and tasers,” said one resident.

The municipality was criticised for not fixing street lights and not ensuring the proper maintenance of bushes in the area. It was proposed that the bush where the rape occurred be fenced, with the community association investigating the cost of the project.

“We know there are vagrants living there and some co-operation from the municipality and police to clean up the area will be appreciated. Tonight, right where the incident took place, that stretch of street lights is not working. Surely that is something simple that can be sorted out easily?” said another resident.

Self-defence expert Mandy Tyrer, of the Academy of Self-Defence, has offered self-defence classes with funds raised to be donated to the Jess Foord Foundation.

A local arms and ammunition company held a demonstration on the use of tasers, pepper sprays and other devices people could use for self-defence.

The group will meet again tomorrow before joining the Red Sox Running Club, which is holding a run to raise awareness of the incident.

The Witness joined the campaign, donating 200 whistles for runners to use in emergencies. The initiative was well received.

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