A police base camp in Scottsdene has helped to turn the tide against gang violence, say residents.
They say they held out little hope of the camp doing any good when it was set up in June last year, but they have been pleasantly surprised and no longer feel like prisoners in their homes.
The 24-hour camp was one of several set up in communities rife with gang violence as part of the SAPS Operation Thunder project, rolled out in May last year.
“The base camps are responsible for rapid responses to incidents and ensuring community safety,” said Kraaifontein Community Police Forum spokesman, Clemen Solomons.
“This base camp proves that SAPS are willing to work with the communities in need of assistance, and Scottsdene has welcomed it,” he said.
At least five police vans at the base camp patrol the Scottsdene area, while Kraaifontein SAPS focus on the other areas.
Scottsdene Action Group chairman, Leslie Siegelaar, said gang violence in the community had been so bad before the Operation Thunder deployment that it had been claiming a life almost every day.
But for the past six months, it had been “pleasant living in the Scottsdene community,” he said.
Before the camp, residents wanting to go to church or visit the library or clinic risked being shot or robbed, he said. And they no longer heard the crack of gunfire throughout the day.
“Scottsdene contributed to 80% of the gang violence in the Kraaifontein community, but we are pleased to say that for the past six months our lives were not in danger.
“I remember when people would keep their children absent from school as a result of gang violence. We had little to no faith that it would work for our community, but it did,” he said.
Kayo Louw, a community worker, said he had had to suspend youth holiday programmes in Scottsdene when the gangs “adopted the streets”. But now the community was a safe place for children to play.
“The kids no longer have to dodge bullets while they innocently play in our streets. They walk freely, and during the festive season, they played outside till late in the evening.”
Jessica Swartland said she had feared going to church or visiting a neighbour before the base camp had moved to Cavalleria Street, but now she felt safer.
“I have not heard gunshots in a while, and sometimes, if there is fighting or anything related to crime, the police at the base camp respond quickly. They have made a good choice to have this here in Scottsdene,” she said.
Police spokesman, Captain Hein Henricks, said the deployment of staff from Kraaifontein SAPS as well as SAPS provincial team members in the past months had helped to rein in crime and violence in Scottsdene.
“The establishment of the base camp has led to increased visible policing, leading to a decrease in gang activity and a relationship of trust being built between the SAPS and the community.”
He encouraged the community to form part of the community safety structures and to provide information about crime.