‘We’re no thieves’

2017-05-09 06:00
Rashaad Jacobs shows the bushes that make it easy for criminals to hide stolen goods in the Voortrekker informal settlement in Maitland, where residents complain that they are mistaken as thieves.PHOTO: Nomzamo yuku

Rashaad Jacobs shows the bushes that make it easy for criminals to hide stolen goods in the Voortrekker informal settlement in Maitland, where residents complain that they are mistaken as thieves.PHOTO: Nomzamo yuku

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Squatters at the Voortrekker informal settlement in Maitland say they are tired of being labelled as thieves whenever someone is robbed nearby.

The residents were responding to allegations recently made by a 24-year-old woman who was robbed in daylight on the Kensington footbridge two weeks ago (“Unsafe on bridge, even in daylight”, People’s Post, 2 May).

The bridge links Kensington to Maitland and the informal settlement is on the left at Royal Road slightly underneath the bridge when going to Maitland. It is estimated that about 30 families are living there.

One of the residents, Rashaad Jacobs, says they are being treated unfairly and disrespected because they are poor and living in a low-class area.

Residents of the nearby suburbs are labelling them as thugs who rob passersby, he says.

“It’s easy for someone to find a hiding space in these bushes, hence those robbers run in this direction. Why would anyone rob a person and run to his house?

“People must stop labelling us. We are humans who happen to be less fortunate and are trying to make ends meet for our families,” Jacobs says.

Another resident who did not want to be named says stolen goods have been found in their area. Once a thug realises he is close to being caught he drops it and continues running to confuse the police or whoever is chasing him, he says. Residents then spotted near the dropped stolen goods are likely to be regarded as suspects.

He says sometimes police conduct a raid in the informal settlement and become violent and sometimes leave some of their belongings damaged.

Captain Glen Coetzee of Maitland Police Station says the squatter camp is a quiet area with few criminal activities.

“We have not had any problems with the residents in that area recently and we have not made any arrests in a while,” he says.

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