Lights could stay on in gang infested areas during blackouts

Cape Town - The City of Cape Town is exploring the option of keeping street lights on during power outages to help with policing, specifically in Manenberg, Hanover Park and Ottery, a move welcomed by residents of the gang-ridden Cape Flats 

Mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, told News24 on Tuesday that solutions being explored included limiting blackouts to daylight hours and keeping street lights on during outages.

Smith said patrols and night raids were “virtually impossible” in the dark as officers were unable to see where crime was being committed or who was responsible.

“Over the weekend, the situation was so out of hand we were forced to withdraw in Manenberg. We are still in the process of exploring the options with the utilities department, but hope to be able to roll out the plan by July.”

While no analysis had been done to determine if crime increased during blackouts, the dark provided the perfect cover for criminals, said Mitchell’s Plain Community Policing Forum chairperson, Michael Jacobs.

The cluster covers the province’s most gang-plagued areas including Manenberg, Hanover Park, Tafelsig, Lentegeur, Grassy Park and Lavender Hill.

“There’s no denying that when the lights go out, the streets are like booby traps,” he said. “The power outages give those with bad intentions the perfect opportunity to roam freely. Gangsters will find their rivals and thieves will find easy targets. People living in [gang strongholds] are limited to staying indoors to keep safe. This is the sad reality.”

Nothing good happens after dark in Manenberg, resident Lorraine Manuel agreed.

“The gangsters, thieves and robbers come out of their hiding places like cockroaches,” she said.

“You feel the tension in this community during load-shedding periods. In the dark, you can’t see what’s waiting for you. The only people out on the street are people with bad intentions.”

About 2km away in Hanover Park, Edwin Roelof told a similar story. “A night without shots ringing out is practically unheard of,” he said.

“In the dark, the skollies [thugs] play cowboys and crooks. You hear the bangs as if the shots are being fired right outside your door. But all you can do is byt vas [hold on] and stay away from the doors and windows. There’s no point in looking out, you can’t see anything. You won’t even see your death coming if a stray bullet pierces your home.”

Tafelsig pensioner Joan Engelbrecht said she would welcome any plan to keep some lights on during power outages.

“To the people living in the suburbs, load-shedding is an inconvenience. Here, where we live, it’s life threatening.”

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