Parow informal traders chanting, “We need help; we are being robbed,” marched to Parow police station, where they handed over a memorandum to Captain Samuel Williams at Parow SAPS.
Jamiela Moodley, chairwoman of the Station Road Arcade Traders’ Association, along with 60 other traders, gathered in King Edward Street, on Thursday November 23, to protest over rampant prostitution, drug peddling and robbery in the heart of Parow.
Ms Moodley, who has had a clothing stall in Parow for 20 years, said crime had worsened over the years.
“I have not been robbed myself, but another stall owner had her phone snatched from her hands in the market,” she said.
Mark Naidoo, who had been trading in Parow since 2010, called for more police visibility.
“The police know where the hot spots are, so they should increase their manpower in those areas. I can’t understand how thieves are caught now and in an hour or two you see them walking the streets again. We have noticed the same faces robbing residents.”
Ms Moodley said people feared visiting the market as they felt unsafe. “Crime is definitely affecting our bottom line,” she said.
Hitendra Makan has been trading in the area for 30 years. According to him, gangs are behind the crime wave.
“Gangsters are selling drugs freely in this area; there is a group that targets cellphones and a group that targets people’s gold chains. After 2pm, we have found that there is a lack of law enforcement visibility,” he said.
Amien Moodley added: “The big gangsters are sending children to rob our customers.”
Phaldie Bester, a trader in Parow since 1980, said crime was hurting all the traders and it had gotten especially bad in recent months.
“I feel that police and law enforcement are not operating as they used to. If SAPS, the Voortrekker Corridor Improvement District (VRCID) and City law enforcement can work together, they will really make a dent in the number of crimes being committed in this area. We used to be able to make a living selling our things here, but now our business is dwindling,” he said.
Mr Bester said he had watched in horror two weeks ago as an elderly woman had had her chain pulled off her neck while leaving Shoprite.
“If victims put up a fight, criminals become more violent, and they hit their victims,” he said.
Christine Naidu, who has traded in Kloser Street in Parow for the past 10 years, said “crime is terrible” in Parow.
“We never know when we as traders will be robbed, and there are a large group of senior citizens trading with me. I have seen people steal off tables and run down Voortrekker Road and jump into a taxi. These incidents are particularly bad when people come to Parow to collect their Sassa (South Africa Social Security Agency) grants. I have seen many people’s gold chains being ripped off their necks.”
Trader and chairwoman of the Shining Stars Organisation, Maureen Vogel, said criminals were relentless in Parow.
“The police are failing us. I have lived in this area my whole life, and I can tell you that crime is just getting worse. I also have an issue with the many slum buildings and landlords in the Parow CBD,” she said.
The traders said they had asked Ward 26 councillor Franchesca Walker many times to help them end Parow’s crime scourge, but with no results.
Ms Walker said four CCTV cameras watched the Station Road precinct and the intersection of Jan van Riebeeck Avenue and Voortrekker Road.
“All the cameras are fully functional and being monitored 24/7, 365 days a year,” she said.
A law enforcement caravan had been posted in Connaught Road two weeks ago and six officers patrolled the area daily.
“I have had meetings with Parow police and management on a couple of occasions. I have also had on-site meetings with City officials, law enforcement, metro police, VRCID and the various neighbourhood watches,” said Ms Walker.
She said the Parow Crime Fighters Neighbourhood Watch (Pacrif), Parow Valley and Parow West neighbourhood watches patrolled every Friday night and had had many successes.
“Safety is everyone’s responsibility. If we work together, we can claim back our area and keep community members safe. I was a trader on Parow flea market for many years, earning a living for my two children. I know the challenges first-hand and will do my utmost best to make the area safe. I know how important it is to survive and provide for your family. I have the business and traders best interests at heart.”
Ms Walker promised to organise a public meeting with the traders and business community.
Parow police spokesman Captain Kevin Williams said the station would consider the traders’ memorandum before giving a response.
“The informal traders were invited to join hands against crime but were reluctant. We urged them to attend the business forum meetings where their concerns can be discussed and a way forward can be determined.”
He said opportunistic crimes increased in the CBD as the festive season approached, and groups of robbers worked together and posed as ordinary pedestrians.
“Criminals come as far as Ravensmead, Elsies River and Delft to commit crimes in Parow.”