Tunnel vision closed

2015-05-06 09:30
Access to the tunnels at Park and York roads will be restricted to safeguard residents. 


PHOTO: 
MONIQUE DUVAL

Access to the tunnels at Park and York roads will be restricted to safeguard residents. PHOTO: MONIQUE DUVAL

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Thieves, prostitutes and drug users will have to find a new location for their activities as Wynberg tunnels are being fenced off.

Located between Wittebome and Wynberg train stations, the tunnels and subways have been a sore point for neighbourhood watches and the police for several years.

They claim the tunnels are being used to commit crime at night. The robbery of commuters and pedestrians has often been highlighted at crime meetings as police claim the tunnels make it easy for criminals to move between the western and eastern parts of Wynberg.

Residents have also previously raised concerns about vagrancy and the Community Police Forum (CPF) has expressed its concern with prostitution.

Now the City of Cape Town has undertaken to close off some tunnels at night to ensure criminals do not loiter in the area.

Ward councillor Elizabeth Brunette explains she met with officials from the City’s roads department in August last year to discuss a solution. The risks posed to residents and commuters and the frequency of use in each tunnel were considered.

“We undertook to clean the tunnels and have them repainted and restrict access to the tunnels at Park and York roads. This was due to the concerns about criminal activity taking place,” Brunette explains.

Officials will reinstall lights to ensure the areas around the tunnels are illuminated to discourage illegal activity.

“There have been a number of complaints and on inspection it was evident the tunnels were being used for illegal activity,” she says.

Wynberg police spokesperson Warrant Officer Silvino Davids says the police are excited about the project.

He says patrol officers often have to stop their cars and chase after suspected criminals who use the tunnels to get away.

“This often happens with drug dealers. We have devised ways to catch them by having vehicles and officers stationed on the other side to catch them if they run, but having some of the tunnels closed off will mean we can catch them faster,” he says.

The Wynberg police have also investigated several robberies at the tunnels and Davids believes this project will help solve the problem.

CPF chairperson Shamila Nicholas says the forum is glad to hear the news. She says in a recent meeting of neighbourhood watches several issues around the tunnels were raised. Together with the CPF, the neighbourhood watches planned to approach councillors to see how they could help.

She says the activities at the tunnels in Mitcham and York roads are the CPF’s main concern. She will liaise with officials about the possibility of closing the York Road tunnel completely.

Brunette explains the tunnels in York and Park roads will be closed between 20:00 and 06:00 daily. She is currently asking for residents to volunteer to lock and open the gates.

Nicholas says the neighbourhood watches are willing to help with this.

V

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