'Too dangerous to fix traffic lights'

2019-11-26 06:00
Traffic piles up and robberies are committed where the traffic lights are no longer operating in Seawinds and Vrygrond.

Traffic piles up and robberies are committed where the traffic lights are no longer operating in Seawinds and Vrygrond. (Racine Edwardes)

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The three out of order traffic lights along Prince George Drive; at the corner of Military Road, Vrygrond Avenue and Capricorn Boulevard, have been causing traffic mayhem for more than three weeks since Thursday 31 October. 

Residents believe these traffic lights have purposefully been tampered with to slow down traffic, allowing criminals the opportunity to commit smash-and-grab robberies.

Clive Jacobs, a Lavender Hill resident and a community activist, says criminal activity at these intersections has increased dramatically.

“Construction vehicles, delivery vehicles and moving vans are being robbed; and children who leave the school are being smacked around for their phones. Who do we contact to keep our people safe,” he asks.

Steenberg police spokesperson, Sgt Wesley Twigg, confirmed the occurrence of robberies at the intersections has increased.

“There has been an increase in cases that are reported at the intersection … due to the vandalism of the traffic lights.”

He adds, however, that these crimes are made easier to commit by people who keep their valuables in plain sight.

“Theft out of a motor vehicle and street robberies are of concern as people are walking with their cellphones in their hands and leaving valuable items on car seats.”

He says his station has increased its patrols to thwart criminal elements.

While this may be a temporary solution, residents want the traffic lights to be repaired to restore order in the community.

But the Mayco member for transport, Felicity Purchase, says this may not be possible soon.

“The traffic signals at these intersections were vandalised during a violent protest on Thursday 31 October. Since then, it has been too dangerous for officials from the City’s transport directorate to access the area to do the necessary repair work. 

“Also, those who have been involved in the violent protest have threatened to destroy these signals again should the City attempt to do the repairs. We are currently waiting for the situation to stabilise before we will be able to do the repairs – it is impossible to indicate a timeline at this stage,” says Purchase.

For the time being, stop-signs have been attached to the traffic lights to stop reckless driving and people who now disregard the intersections completely. 

However, Jacobs says the act of driving straight through the intersections, which are now chaotic four-way stops, is to keep motorists safe.

“The victims in the cars would rather speed off in fear of their lives and never return.”

Police have encouraged victims to come forward and report crimes but Jacobs says this is an unsympathetic approach as they fear for their lives.

Sgt Twigg advises motorists and pedestrians on how to safeguard themselves.

“People must ensure that their valuables are placed in the car boots and that when they stand at the intersection they are aware of their surroundings. Always be alert at intersections and be on the lookout for people loitering around you or for any sudden activity around your car.”

With regards to the damage of City infrastructure, Purchase says it is unacceptable and adds that it is preventing the City from building other necessary structures in the community. 

“Teams will need about 10 workdays to complete the repairs starting with the intersection at Military Road. The estimated cost of the repair work is R800 000, and one of the intersections will require substantial cable replacement.

“The signal at Vrygrond has been vandalised three times over the past few months. The money we now need to spend on doing repairs could have been spent on building new roads and sidewalks in these very same communities.”

Jacobs says the infrastructure is the least of their worries. It is the safety of the community that matters most.

“These criminals don’t work – they steal, they rob and they hurt to get their daily drug fixes. At the peak of our Christmas season, attacks like these are imminent and surely a murder or two could and will take place. I feel justice can be served if law enforcement agencies take note of these negative acts as it spirals out of control and children are put at risk,” says Jacobs.

  • Email racine.edwardes@media24.com to express your views on the vandalised traffic lights.

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