On patrol with Oakdale Watch

Oakdale Watch chairperson Petri Strydom says empty buildings are problematic as they attract criminal elements.

Members of the Oakdale Watch were out in full force on Friday June 24, bracing the cold weather from just after 8pm till around midnight, to keep the suburb safe.

About 22 watch members, wearing reflective bibs and armed with little more than torches and pepper spray, met briefly in a parking lot in Barnard Street beforen the patrol.

Then they organised themselves into teams of two and peeled off in more than 10 vehicles displaying Oakdale Watch markings to patrol the area, relaying suspicious activity on their radios.

The focus of Friday’s operation, led by watch vice chairman CJ Scholtz, was on zones one and two, an area stretching from Teddington Street, through Dirkie Uys and Iona Street, which the watch has identified as its crime hot spots.

Northern News accompanied chairman Petri Strydom, who pointed out problem areas and spoke about some of the challenges patrollers face.

Mr Strydom said most of the drug-related crime and thefts from cars happened in zone one, which is close to Bellville CBD.

“The criminals tend to break into cars and then they simply run over to the main road. Teddington Street has been listed as one of the streets with the highest crime rate according to the crime map,” he said.

“This is the area with the highest number of crime-related incidents, yet we only have three patrollers from this zone. We have more than 100 members on the Eyes and Ears WhatsApp group, but only have five users from this area,” said Mr Strydom.

Mr Strydom said sex work was rife in zone two and the watch patrolled some streets daily in this zone.

“At any given time you can see around 10 to 12 sex workers on the corners. One also has to be very careful as their pimps are usually keeping an eye on them.”

During the patrol, watch members spotted several alleged sex workers and their clients just off Dirkie Uys Street. There were also a few known drug users lurking in the area.

Bellville police station commander Brigadier André van Dyk confirms that sex work in the Voortrekker Road Corridor is a reality and is being addressed. He says 20 percent of crime committed in the Bellville police precinct during the first 23 days of June was committed in the lower Oakdale area. Danger is never very far away when keeping tabs on the criminal underworld, and Mr Strydom recalled one close call when a man he chased into a store turned and tried to throw a brick at him.

“We are only allowed to do a citizen’s arrest which means that we can only detain the suspect until the police come,” he said.

Section 42 of the Criminal Procedure Act allows for a member of the public to execute an arrest without an arrest warrant. “This can take place when a crime is committed in the presence of the citizen, where a suspect is being pursued by a police official or in the event of a public group fight,” says Brigadier Van Dyk

For new Oakdale Watch member Kayla Leader, 19, it was her second patrol since joining the group recently.

“I decided to join as I wanted to be part of the change in Oakdale. There are not that many people who want to do this type of thing but it has been an eye opening experience thus far,” she said.