It’s just gone 8.30pm on a Wednesday when members of PACRIF (Parow Crimefighters) Neighbourhood Watch meet, readying themselves for another nocturnal foray against a growing tide of vice crime eating away at their once quiet suburb.
We’re standing in Parow Street, which itself is home to two drug houses. Some of these dens, the patrollers say, run like a 24-hour drive-through or delivery service.
A silver car is parked at another drug house in Carstens Street. It’s known as “Mr Delivery” and is busy all day. It gets washed every day – despite the water restrictions.
Residents say they’ve lived under the tyranny of the drug lords for about five years. Their streets have become virtual no-go zones for the more vulnerable among them as the drug dealing has drawn a sinister assortment of criminals to the area. Their children, they say, cannot walk to the shops or to school without the threat of robbery or encounters with prostitutes.
“It’s like we’re in jail,” is how one resident describes living here.
The drug kingpins appear to be well-organised and, according to residents, have someone at every corner selling drugs daily.
Saturdays, it seems, are especially busy, and when the dogs bark at night, the residents know a deal is going down.
One woman, who has lived in the area for five years, moved in two months after a drug house opened next door. She finds ID books and other personal items belonging to mugging victims tossed in her yard and has had to answer questions from her young child about why a woman is outside with hardly any clothes on.
“What am I exposing my kids to?,” she asks.
When one drug house closes, another opens. Residents know of one with no electricity or running water and the 30-odd occupants relieve themselves in the front yard.
“We know when they’re new and we know the old crew. Sometimes we will say: ‘Gaan huistoe, jy lyk ordentlik.”
They talk about a Kia Sedona they’ve seen at Parow Street drug den. It’s a woman, they say, who comes every morning.
At a house near the railway line, the patrollers call over the resident to tell me about the drugs and knives thrown over her fence. She has even pointed out to cops where drugs or stolen goods are stashed next to the railway line.
Someone asks her in jest why she didn’t hit a known druggie who tried to steal a ladder from her garden. She says, “No man, must a person always fight?”
I ask why she hasn’t sold and moved elsewhere. She says the family have held on to their property through tough times, and she doesn’t want to start over again.
Many residents moved from the Cape Flats to give their children a better life, only to find themselves stuck with the very drugs and crime they had tried to flee.
“In Khayelitsha, this would not be tolerated,” someone says. One man cannot hide his anger at what is happening on his doorstep. “What about our kids growing up? We don’t want this shit in our area,” he says. “What must we do? Must we burn tyres?”.
Later that night, a suspected prostitute is taken away by the cops after a man is robbed of his cellphone in Voortrekker Road. He asks the watch members if they saw the woman. One advises him to check a known drug house and brothel in nearby Carstens Street.
Parow police and the Maitland Flying Squad are there and the phone is found. Someone says it was in the boot of a car on the property. A man standing outside is asking the woman why she brought the stolen phone there.
Residents say the kingpins escape when the drug dens are raided, leaving the users and the runners to be arrested.
“Whenever there’s a raid, you will find them on their phones, informing the others,” a resident says.
Residents complained about drug dealing in their neighbourhood during a 2015 meeting with JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security. He promised them that a legal process was under way for the state to attach a known drug den in Parow Street.
On Friday May 26, I asked the City of Cape Town about that 2015 meeting and the pledge made then. On Monday May 29, I was told Mr Smith was out of the country and couldn’t respond.
Mr Smith was at some of the properties on Friday night, May 26 during a raid by the City’s law enforcement agencies (“Suspected sex slave found in Parow,” Northern News, May 31).
Parow SAPS spokesman Captain Kevin Williams says the station knows of no plans to act against the owner of some of the drug houses.
In September last year, Mr Smith told Northern News that the City was finalising its investigation into the Parow Street property (“Problem house headache in Parow,” Northern News, September 14, 2016), but residents say it is business as usual at that drug house. “For three years, we’ve heard it’s going to be closed down.”
Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott says the hole in the fence along the railway line in Cloete Street will be fixed when funding allows it.