Three-month blackout: terrified Northdale residents sitting ducks

2013-10-28 00:00

MORE than three months without street lights have left residents in the lower end of Northdale sitting ducks for criminals. In the past month people have been held up and had their wages, cellphones and shopping parcels stolen. Residents say that cars get broken into on a nightly basis and recently there has been an increase in the number of housebreakings.

They say that they have complained collectively and individually to the municipality and have the reference numbers they received from the call centre to prove it, but to no avail. The fed up residents contacted Witness Warriors to highlight their plight. Joe Pillay, Mohamed Shaik, Ayoob Singh, Sharon Gengan, Ashwin Chetty and Colleen Harry were among the residents who clamoured to get their voices heard. They said they were not going to keep quiet anymore as they needed to speak out before something fatal happens as the situation was getting increasingly dangerous. Shaik said it seemed as if word has spread around among the criminal gangs that the area was an easy target and all of them believe that criminal activity in the area has increased. He added that in the past month alone he saved two women from being robbed. However, his family was not happy with him rushing out as they feared for his safety. They were also afraid that their home would be targeted by the criminals

Ward councillor Rooksana Ahmed has a wad of e-mails that she has sent to officials that have gone unanswered. Ahmed said that in her correspondence she has pointed out that the residents were becoming aggressive and accusing her of not doing her job. “After one meeting lights came on for three days but for the past three months they have been off permanently,” she said.

She said the areas affected included Bangalore Road, Dhera Dun Circle and Arunagiri Circle. “This area is … completely dark because there is no reflective lighting from the other streets. There are many paths and lanes leading out of this area and the cemetery itself allows for quick and easy escape routes for the criminals,” Ahmed said.

She added that most of the people rely on public transport, which means that they leave their homes around 5and 6 am in the morning when it is dark and arrive home after dark. They are easy prey for criminals, she said.

Pensioner Premi Maharaj (73) fell in the dark and broke her leg. Pensioner Joe Pillay says he and his wife leave home at 4.30 am to go to Northdale hospital. They have to leave so early because it is so dark that they have to inch their way forward. Pillay said the taxis pass them and don’t pick them up because it is so dark that the drivers fail to see them.

The litany of complaints continued in house after house. Each household has a mishap to relate. Ayoob Singh had the sound system stolen from his car. Ashwin Singh had his car broken into twice. Unemployed Bradley Dan used to collect bottles and other material that he sold for recycling. He had to give this up because the material that he collected and stored in his backyard was being stolen night after night.

Mohanchand Rambally says the area was also being used by illegal dumpers under cover of darkness. “I’ve lived in this area for 32 years and we have always had street lights. I don’t know what is going on with the municipality,” Rambally said.

Mountain Rise Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Pete Jugmohan said the CPF was aware that areas without street lights become havens for criminals.

Witness Warriors has alerted the municipality to the plight of the residents and will follow up next week to see if anything has been done.

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