Homeless people beaten

Goodwood Community Police Forum (CPF) chairwoman Lee Jepson has warned security firms and neighbourhood watch patrollers to “keep their hands to themselves” and not assault people sleeping rough in the suburb.

At a neighbourhood watch meeting for sectors 1 and 3 last week, she said the CPF would “not tolerate” assaults on “vagrants”.

She said there were many stories going around about attacks on the homeless.

Ms Jepson said patrollers who assaulted homeless people because they wanted them out of the neighbourhood would have to face the music on their own.

“I don’t want to be associated with a vigilante group. That is our name out there,” Ms Jepson warned.

Residents at various forums in Goodwood have expressed irritation about increased numbers of homeless people in the suburb.

Ms Jepson made an example of homeless people’s tents being “whacked with a baseball bat”, saying it was “absolutely wrong”.

“If you go and kick a person that’s sleeping… what does it say about you?” she asked.

Ms Jepson, who is a member of the Monte Vista Neighbourhood Watch, said chasing homeless people out of Goodwood created problems elsewhere.

“There are lots of vagrants coming across the bridge to Monte Vista,” she told the meeting.

Warrant Officer Deon Smit, from Goodwood SAPS, said they would not let neighbourhood watch members off the hook if they were accused of assault. When a representative from a security company raised the issue of homeless people being “difficult”, Warrant Officer Smit advised civilian patrollers to get help from SAPS.

“It’s unnecessary that people must get hurt because we’re frustrated. Keep your hands to yourself,” he said.

Goodwood SAPS spokesman Captain Waynne Theunis confirmed that an assault case had been opened on Saturday February 18, but he said no neighbourhood watch member could be linked to the incident.

“According to the complainant, she was sprayed with pepper spray in the early hours of the morning. The complainant then saw a vehicle of a security company speeding from the scene,” Captain Theunis said.

He said the complainant could not identify which security company’s vehicle it was.

Not so, says Shaun Conyers. He opened an assault case against Byers Security after he and his partner, Anita Francois, were pepper sprayed, while sleeping in the park opposite JG Meiring High School, in Goodwood, in the early hours of Saturday morning a few weeks ago.

Ms Francois said the three assailants had worn balaclavas. Mr Conyers said one vehicle had “Byers 11” written on it. He could not see the other bakkie’s number. Mr Conyers was adamant that he had identified the Byers vehicle in his sworn statement to the police.

Northern News asked to have a look at Mr Conyers’s statement, but Captain Theunis said: “It’s not allowed.”

Ms Francois said the pepper spray had burnt her eyes and temporarily blinded her.

She called the police’s 10111 at about 2am to report the attack and was told a van from Goodwood SAPS would come. “Nobody came,” she said, but after a while they saw a van linger in the vicinity, although no one came to speak to them.

Later that morning, Mr Conyers went to lay a charge at the police station.

A week later, he went back for a case number, as a detective had not come to speak to them about the incident.

When Northern News spoke to them on Sunday March 19, they were still waiting. They said that on the Monday after the attack, a Byers staff member had come to the park, warned them not to “spread stories” and threatened them: “We’ll see what I do to you.”

The couple have lived in the park for two years. They had to leave their daughters, aged 3 and 7, in foster care.

Ms Francois said she had lived in Goodwood for many years, but circumstances had led them to the streets.

“We’re not going anywhere. We’ve been living here for two years, so they can’t tell us where to go,” she said.

Another homeless woman, who lives on the other side of Goodwood and doesn’t know Ms Francois and Mr Conyers, also accused Byers Security of assaulting homeless people.

Angelique Snyders, who lives in a makeshift home on Vasco Boulevard, said two Byers Security officers accompanied by “private people”, presumably neighbourhood watch members, had harassed her and some other homeless people sleeping in shop entrances on a Friday night three weeks ago.

While talking to Northern News, a bakkie from Byers stopped at the traffic light on Voortrekker Road. Ms Snyders pointed it out. She said the harassment happened on Friday nights: their shelters would be damaged and they would be verbally abused. In the latest incident, some of the homeless had been beaten. “Hulle is vark, vark onbeskof,” she said.

Byers Security CEO Neil Rossouw said he didn’t know about the pepper-spray incident or that a case had been opened.

He said his officers sometimes accompaniedneighbourhood watch members on patrol. He said if his officers had been involved in attacks on homeless people, he should have been told.

Northern News sent him emailed questioned, and on Friday March 17, he said he had sent one of his staff members to the police station to check if a case had been opened.

He again denied his men had been involved, saying: “Ek weet van neighbourhood watch members wat betrokke was in sulke goed.”

But a few minutes later, Pierre Rossouw, who is in charge of the company’s armed response officers, called to say he in fact knew of the charge because a detective from Goodwood SAPS had come to see him the Monday after the alleged attack.

He said it could relate to a Friday night patrol opposite JG Meiring High School. He denied there had been an altercation, and about the Vasco Boulevard allegation, he said: “I don’t know about anything that happened there.”

He too emphasised that they worked with “neighbourhood watches, police officers and other security companies.”