With only a quarter of the year complete, some UP students are concerned about the rise in robberies taking place in the Hatfield area, particularly those affecting communes.
Every year, students are faced with accommodation dilemmas. Due to limited space, many students do not make it into a residence and have to look in the private sector for accommodation. This typically results in students moving into a commune.
Rutz Marx, a fourth-year town and regional planning student, explained that during his four years of living in a commune on Park Street, there have been a number of break-ins that were mainly crimes of opportunity. He said that the recent break-ins appear to be more organised. On one such instance, the robbers gained entrance to the property with a side-gate key. Rutz does not know how they got the key.
Wayne Jacobs, a first-year BCom (Business Management) student said that a robbery at his commune on Arcadia Street, which occurred on 1 March, also seemed to be planned. “They took the motorised gate off the rails, then broke through my Trellidoor gate [and] glass sliding door, then broke through my room door to get into the rest of the house. Then it seems that they used bolt cutters to open a small gate to escape quickly,” Jacobs said. Among the goods stolen were one computer, two laptops and a cell phone. Jacobs added that there are three other communes on Arcadia Street that have also been broken into this year.
Third-year engineering student Ryan Roberts, who lives in a commune on Prospect Street, said that his commune was broken into at the end of February. Bags, laptops, a sound system and a PlayStation were stolen. He also said that the commune opposite to his was broken into two weeks ago.
Xolani Shabangu told Perdeby that he does not feel safe in his home. He feels that the streets around the Sport campus are the most targeted, especially the streets from Park Street until Hartebeespoort Street. He said that this is due to the lack of Fidelity guards in the area. “This past week, [criminals have] been on our street almost every day. We can’t sleep, people scream, we live in fear and it’s not healthy for us,” Shabangu said.
Perdeby looked into who is responsible for the areas and what is being or can be done to alleviate this tension.
Hatfield City Improvement District’s (CID) chief operating officer Danie Basson stated that the “CID area of responsibility (mandate) is limited” to the areas between Grosvenor, Francis Baard, Jan Shoba streets and University and Lynnwood roads and unfortunately most of the burglaries occur outside of this area.
wwBasson explained that discussions are underway to address these issues and that in order “for the CID to expand, all property owners will need to be consulted and they will have to support it and contribute”.
Hatfield CID often intervenes in order to prevent crimes or arrest suspects involved in ongoing or past crimes. “Even though some crimes still occur I am certain that without these efforts, this area would degrade and spiral out of control,” Basson said.
Media liaison officer for the Brooklyn Police Station Captain Colette Weilbach stated that there has been an increase in house break-ins at students’ residences compared to 2012. Since the situation developed, the police have intensified patrols in the affected areas.
Captain Weilbach explained that four suspects were recently arrested for related crimes in the Hatfield area and their arrest has caused a significant decline in these incidents. She added that evidence indicates that “there is a possibility of criminal elements amongst students themselves” where individuals pose as students also living in student accommodations and who commit crimes from these areas.
She therefore encourages students to take responsibility for their own possessions and safety by locking up when leaving and by keeping valuables away from open windows.
“In the past week, a suspect was arrested after he stole a laptop from a commune. The suspect said he found the gate open, the front door was open and he walked straight into the open room and took the laptop,” Captain Weilbach said. She also stated that adopting a buddy system, where neighbours can look out for one another, will help in assisting crime prevention.
The police are currently in the process of establishing a community patrol programme among students living in private accommodations where participating students will do block watch duties whenever they are available under the supervision of the police. Through this, “Students become the eyes and ears of the police, without risking their own safety,” Captain Weilbach explained.
Students who are interested or who want more information about this can contact Warrant Officer Annabelle Middleton on 012 366 1843 during office hours.
Image: Oan de Waal