Locals act to save property

2016-01-19 06:00
 Muizenberg residents intervened to secure this building in Clevedon Road, which was vandalised after the tenant moved out before Christmas. PHOTO: Digby Young

Muizenberg residents intervened to secure this building in Clevedon Road, which was vandalised after the tenant moved out before Christmas. PHOTO: Digby Young

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Agroup of Muizenberg residents has banded together to fight a problem building in Clevedon Road.

The house was vacated by the tenant before Christmas and vandals moved in shortly after. A resident alerted the local neighbourhood watch, the Muizenberg Community Safety Initiative (MCSI), to concerns neighbours had about the property.

The manager of the Muizenberg Improvement District (MID) was consulted and alerted the police, while the MID director responsible for bad buildings contacted the City’s problem building unit. MID public safety patrollers started to conduct regular stops at the property to monitor activity, says MCSI chairperson Trevor Snyders.

On 4 January a neighbour saw the front door broken down and men ransacking the house, loading baths, light fittings, gutters and furniture into trolleys and vehicles.

“By this time the property reeked of urine and broken alcohol bottles were spread across the property,” he says.

It has taken years of concerted effort by the MID and the community to rid Muizenberg of tenant overcrowding, drug dealing and crime caused by absentee landlords, says Snyders.

“Now this situation posed an immediate and serious threat to the security of all residents in the vicinity. The MCSI was not going to stand idly by and let it happen.”

A community meeting was called, a plan of action agreed and working together via the MCSI WhatsApp group, members sprang into action to halt the destruction.

Ward councillor Dave D’Alton undertook to liaise with the City’s health inspector and relevant City departments. The attorney of the property owner was tracked down.

The attorney authorised the police to legally remove the trespassers.

“He said, however, it would be difficult to find a contractor to secure the property over the Christmas period,” Snyders explains.

Undeterred, MCSI members used their own money to buy materials. Volunteers spent an afternoon securing the building.

“The driveway access was welded shut, the entire frontage topped with razor wire and a webcam mounted to monitor the property.”

An increase in crime is motivating residents to join the MCSI and take back their community by actively patrolling and alerting each other to security risks, Snyders believes.

“Sadly, the property has already been gutted, but the combined action has prevented criminals from occupying the building and doing further damage and has provided security to those living around the property.”

Community engagement like this is vital in tackling problem buildings, says MID director for public safety Hugo Coetzee.

MID estimated that at least a third of Muizenberg property owners are absentee landlords.

“It’s crucial to have community involvement. A few years ago, if a neighbour’s gate was open, most people would have ignored it. Now neighbours will alert each other to things like that.”

V Visit the Muizenberg Community Safety Initiative at www.mcsi.org.za or email chair@msci.org.za.

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