Businesses to strike back

2019-07-02 16:37

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“We're taking the city back from drug dealers, criminals and filth and we’ll do it ourselves if we have to.”

That’s what a new organisation formed by businesses in the city centre downtown aims to do, with shop owners saying they have had enough and now want to tackle crime, filth and a lack of law enforcement themselves.

The organisation, at an advanced stage of planning, is looking at actively breaking the back of crime in the lower CBD, and is even considering confronting “known” drug dealers and serving them with warnings, and making citizens’ arrests for crimes in progress.

They are considering bringing back a panic button and siren system, which will be installed at businesses to alert the wider community when there are active crimes being committed.

It will also act as the eyes and ears on the ground and observe crime patterns to assist police in making arrests.

Interested parties, like businesses, forums and private security companies, have already held several meetings about the new organisation, which does not yet have a name.

The organisation has already set up some of its structures, and is considering dividing the lower CBD area — which consists of Church Street, Masu­kwana Street, Retief Street and part of Victoria Road — into “blocks” which will have designated leaders responsible for ensuring action is being taken.

A steering committee is being finalised and, from there, members will issue Msunduzi with a notice detailing all their grievances.

The breakdown of law enforcement, as well as the lack of traffic policing, and filth in the lower CBD have been well documented in the pages of The Witness in the past few years.

The situation caused some high-profile business closures, and was said to be affecting income of businesses.

“We will work within the ambit of the law, but we are going to take action,” Essop Dawood, the media liaison officer of the new organisation, said.

“If we have to, we will make citizens’ arrests, hold marches to the City Hall, and do whatever we need to, to get something to change.”

Dawood said businesses have noticed an increase in drug abuse in the city centre. “We’ve got drug dealers who ply their trade with impunity. There is no action being taken against them. There is a lackadaisical approach from the authorities.

“Guys in the CBD are fed up now. Criminals are brazen and acting without any fear.”

He said many ideas were under consideration at the moment, saying that they had a number of businesses already on board, with that number likely to increase as the word gets out.

A timeframe for the organisation’s activities has, however, not been established as yet. But that should be decided soon, Dawood said.

“People are fed up. Businesses are taking the initiative and we will engage with government structures and the police.

“All the frustrations from the community have come out during our meetings. The situation is scary, and criminals have no fear of the law.”

He added that filth and a lack of traffic policing will be other concerns of the organisation, citing the recent issue where taxis for weeks reduced Pietermaritz Street to a single lane when they relocated from the taxi rank onto the streets, impeding traffic flow.

Police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese denied policing was lacking in the lower CBD, saying that police have a commander responsible for that area alone. “It’s not correct, simply because we have vibrant sector policing in the area. There is also the CPF [Community Policing Forum] where members of the community can give their concerns and also contribute to strategies to assist policing.”

However, he welcomed the new organisation, although he warned that they should link themselves with existing policing structures and not descend into vigilantism.

Msunduzi Municipality did not respond to a query.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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