Anti-social behaviour a key challenge for Cape Town's central business district

One of the key challenges currently facing Cape Town's central business district is addressing anti-social behaviour such as "aggressive begging" and petty crime, according to Muneeb Hendricks, manager of safety and security for the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).

However, Hendricks adds that some misconceptions exist about crime in popular areas like Long Street, famous for its restaurants, shops and night life. 

"Long Street is a popular hangout for locals and tourists. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a major crime hotspot in the CBD, mainly because it enjoys a healthy deployment of personnel from most crime-prevention agencies," says Hendricks.

The CCID is a non-profit public-private partnership established in November 2000 by local property owners with a vision for the Cape Town CBD to rise from the "crime and grime" scenario it had fallen into at the time. The CCID provides additional security and cleaning services in the CBD and also has a social arm.

According to the CCID, that is why the Cape Town Central City is today considered to be South Africa's "most vibrant and safest CBD".

Hendricks explains that the CCID - fully funded by property owners in the CBD - must cope with limited resources to deal with an increasing number of "non-moving" traffic violations and emerging security threats in the area.

"Due to the CCID's effective deployment of our public safety officers, we have not only managed to curtail the number of incidents but have also managed to make an arrest in about 80% of cases that occurred," says Hendricks.

The main crime in Long Street, for example, is the pickpocketing of cell phones.

"When people are intoxicated, they fall victim to wily thieves who bump or hug them, or use sleight of hand, to steal their cell phones. They are not robbed in the traditional sense, as very little force is used and most of the time there are no firearms involved," says Hendricks.

Gold chains are the next most popular item that is stolen.

"Muggings are not common in Long Street. Crime is sporadic around the CBD, with no real area standing out. The crime is opportunistic crime," says Hendricks.

"For example, if a person hails an Uber and then stands on the pavement trying to identify the driver or car with a cell phone in hand, there is a chance of the cellphone being snatched by a wily criminal."  

Hendricks implores members of the public to avoid becoming targets by stashing their belongings out of sight, drinking responsibly, not allowing anyone into their personal space and being aware of their surroundings.

"Cape Town, like any major international city, is not crime-free. This is due to the tight economy and various social factors. When people come into the CBD to enjoy what it has to offer, they need to be vigilant," says Hendricks. "The Cape Town CBD is as safe as any CBD in a major global city. You wouldn't let down your guard when you are overseas; you need to do the same here."

Pat Eddy, manager of CCID social development, says that like many international cities, Cape Town's CBD is seeing more people coming into the city centre looking for economic opportunities and social service support.

"The CCID has a dynamic Social Development team, including four outreach workers who engage directly with adults and children who might end up on the streets of the CBD. The CCID Social Development department runs various projects, including a project in Long Street aimed at reducing "aggressive begging" in the area.

Eddy advises people who work in or visit the CBD and encounter intimidating behaviour from beggars to make eye contact with the person and say "no" firmly and clearly in a calm voice.

"If they feel threatened or uncomfortable, they should walk into the first open venue and call the CCID's 24-hour control centre number for assistance 082 415 7127. Alternately, they can find a CCID public safety officer and ask for help," says Eddy.

CCID CEO Tasso Evangelinos points out that the City of Cape Town and the SA Police Service need to meet the demands for cleaning and safety in the CBD. The CCID, 100% funded by property owners in the area in which it operates, is only mandated to offer "top-up" services to the City and SAPS. A total of 51.20% of the CCID's funding is spent on safety and security.

"In spite of a tight economy, we have experienced growth in the CBD on many levels, from the number of property developments to the significant increase in the number of retailers, restaurants, businesses residents and visitors to our Central City," says Evangelinos.

Property valuations have climbed from just over R6bn in 2006 to close to R43bn in 2018 - year-on-year growth of 18%.

There are 4 200 residential units with about 6 000 residents living in the CBD. He says the trend in property development is seeing office buildings transformed into mixed-use developments.

"The Cape Town CBD is still the most successful, well-functioning and well-run CBD in the country, with top-up services provided by the CCID 24/7," says Evangelinos.

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