Bridge patrol makes daily walk safer

Chantel Erfort and Pearl Piet peel potatoes.

Parow Valley residents Michael Goosen and Mary Petersen are a familiar sight every morning on the De La Rey bridge, guiding pupils and commuters across the spot which was once notorious for robberies.

They start their shift at 7am and stay until 7.45am when most of the school children should have already crossed the bridge.

They responded to a call for help by the Parow Valley Neighbourhood Watch a year ago as criminals had been targeting pupils and people on their way to work.

In the year they have been doing duty, there have been only two incidents on the bridge, the last one just over a month ago when a teenager on his way to school was robbed just before 7am.

Mr Goosen found the pupil’s school bag dumped under the bridge, and they supported the boy until his father arrived. They tell people, especially the children, not to walk there before 7am as opportunistic thieves rob people, taking cellphones. “We tell them every day ‘put away the cellphone’,” said Mr Goosen.

He and Ms Petersen are both involved with the Parow Valley Neighbourhood Watch. “We both had kids at high school who walked. This bridge used to be hectic,” explained Ms Petersen.

If crime does take place while they are there, it will be at a spot where they can’t get to quickly.

Of their daily sacrifice, she said: “It’s exciting, it’s a passion.”

But, said Ms Petersen, another shift is needed and if more people become involved, they could have one from 6am to 7am. “We can’t stand on the sidelines and do nothing, and say our area is going down,” said Ms Petersen, as cars whizz by with frequent hoots as they acknowledge the duo’s work.

A taxi driver shouts: “Julle moet in die aande ook staan.”

Besides keeping an eye on the bridge, Mr Goosen occasionally directs traffic when a car gets stuck. “I move this traffic in no time,” he said. Mondays, especially, they find cars get stuck without petrol.

“Ooh, the Monday morning story,” Mr Goosen grinned.

They warn people not to take short-cuts as criminals lay in wait. They are hoping the initiative would be formally launched as a walking bus by the Department of Community Safety.

A walking bus is when parents volunteer their time to usher children to and from school safely in groups.

Chairman of the Parow Valley Neighbourhood Watch, Joe Maila said the bridge was a point where people were robbed most often. He said visibility of the watch members had reduced crime there. “We want to spread it throughout Parow Valley to other schools namely Saffier, Parow Valley Prep, Parow High and Settlers,” said Mr Maila.

He said they were in discussions with the Department of Community Safety to formally roll out a walking bus in Parow Valley.

Residents who want to help can call Mr Maila at 081 243 9104.