‘Den of iniquity’ shut down in Verulam

2017-01-12 06:01
Ward councillor outside an abandoned building in Wick Street where three suspects were arrested with drugs. Photo: supplied

Ward councillor outside an abandoned building in Wick Street where three suspects were arrested with drugs. Photo: supplied

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FIVE suspects were arrested by police in a sting operation in Wick Street, Verulam last Friday night for possession of heroin and weapons.

The three men and two women were arrested in an abandoned building after the police received a tip-off from residents. It alleged the suspects, aged between 19 and 32, were among a group of drug addicts and prostitutes occupying the building.

The building used to be a supermarket and a butchery before the owner deserted it. Residents claim the property is a drug den and is also used by prostitutes as a brothel.

The Weekly visited Wick Street on Tuesday, and a resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he had seen prostitutes and drug addicts in the building.

“I have seen young girls coming with their clients, but after the intervention of security companies and the police we can now breathe a sigh of relief because they no longer go there.”

The derelict building is a few metres away from the Metro police offices and Sizakala Centre in the CBD. A captain from Verulam Metro police said: “We received a complaint from the ward councillor about criminal activities taking place on the property. We contacted the owner of the building and he promised to sort it out within five days. He also promised to hire a security guard until the matter is resolved.”

The Weekly also contacted the building owner, who refused to give further details about the alleged criminal activities taking place there.

“I cannot comment because this is such a delicate matter. Police and security companies are working on the issue and we waiting for feedback from our lawyers.”

Verulam SAPS spokesperson Captain Mark Prakasim confirmed that the suspects had been detained at the police station.

“We received a tip-off from an anonymous caller about illegal activities taking place in the building. Members of the police were sent to the area and upon arrival they found the suspects inside the building, and arrested them.

“At this stage it is not clear if there were any prostitutes in the building. However, we can confirm that drug addicts were arrested on the property. The police will continue conducting patrols in Wick Street.”

Ward councillor Johnson Chetty said: “I received a complaint from the neighbour next to the building in early December last year. On my site inspection, I discovered that vagrants have taken over the building. I located the owner and he promised to close off the building by mid-December last year.

“Last week, I learnt that the owner had failed to adhere to his promise as vagrants were still occupying the building. I contacted him and he asked for another week. I then emailed Metro police in Verulam and also sent an email to eThekwini Health.

“I am particularly concerned that drug dealing and prostitution on the main street can be allowed to happen and our city officials can turn a blind eye [in the past]. Of even greater concern is that there is a couple with a five-year-old child living [in an abandoned house] next to the building and they have no access to basic services or sanitation.

“I met the family where the illegal activities are taking place, and asked them to visit my office so that we can arrange better accommodation for them.

“According to information I received from the public, young girls were spotted at night bringing their clients to the building. Drugs and prostitution is a major problem in Verulam and as community leaders we should be taking proactive steps and stop it.”

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