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Central crime up since municipal guard take-over

BY Site Admin

CENTRAL residents and business owners have complained that crime has spiralled since the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality appointed its own security guards to replace a private firm praised for dealing with crime in the suburb.

 

The municipality appointed 219 security officers, working in four shifts, to patrol the streets from December after the cancellation of Omega Security’s contract.

 

Residents and business owners say a comparison showed Omega Security had been very successful, compared with what the municipal guards had achieved so far.

 

A simple examination of an old Omega Security weekly report shows the company dealt with far more incidents than the guards did.

 

In a February 2009 report two assault incidents, two of robbery, nine stolen vehicles, 13 incidents of drunken and disorderly behaviour, four separate incidents of prostitution and 13 miscellaneous incidents were reported.

 

Also according to a presentation to the Central Crime Forum, Omega achieved numerous milestones in a two-year period, including the recovery of 29 firearms, the recovery of 43 stolen vehicles, 123 housebreaking arrests and 8440 other arrests.

In a two-week period from February 22 until March 4 this year, only eight reported incidents were dealt with. These included the recovery of a dangerous weapon – a screwdriver, one attempted robbery and the recovery of stolen goods, including copper, three cellphones, three digital cameras and electrical cables.

 

About 150 residents and business owners have signed a petition demanding better security in the area. Ward 5 councillor Jeremy Davis said Central, where the 2010 Fifa Fan Park will be based, was “going from bad to worse” and he had already sent a list of the names of 200 petitioners and pictures of crime scenes to the mayor’s office.

“Central is deteriorating rapidly, and this is due to a lack of police presence and the current security guards. Omega Security’s manager, Tim Stow, came from the SAPS so he knew exactly how to handle the area whereas these security guards do not,” Davis said.

 

He said there were no guards present in the area during the recent municipal strike and even the caravan that the guards report to, in Western Road, was vandalised and broken into.

“These guards were not operating during the strike and the criminals knew this. Muggings have increased as well as violent crimes.”

Davis said he had discussed the issue with the municipal director of security services, the Rev Howard Hans, on numerous occasions but nothing had been done to improve the situation.

 

Le Bon Bakery owner Bill Erasmus said security in Central definitely needed to be stepped up, especially due to all the vagrants and street children in the area.

“They have always been in the area but never to the extent it is now. Most of them are behind the petty crimes in the area as well and you find that elderly people are visiting the area less and less because of them,” he said.

Wayne Allen of All-Nite Mini Market, who was shot in the leg and robbed on the way to the bank earlier this year, said crimes continued to occur despite the security guards appearing to be “more settled in”.

“About a month ago, there was an attempted break-in at the nearby pizza place – and the linen place opposite has been hit twice. Also, (business in) Govan Mbeki seems to be hit almost daily as there is no one patrolling down there – this was an area which was covered by Omega.

 

“I think the main things these guys need are equipment and vehicles. Maybe then they will be more effective,” Allen said.

 

Full Swing Trading owner Peter Marais said since Omega Security stopped operating in the area he had been closing his business earlier to protect his staff from potential muggings.

He said the level of crime had increased dramatically since Omega stopped operating in the area.

 

“The new guards do not even patrol in this area. I do not think they are sufficiently trained because when I do see them they are chatting away. Omega was much more professional and we really want them back in the area.”

He said customers complained regularly of being mugged near his business and one of his staff members was also recently robbed.

 

“Omega was much more efficient and we felt safer when they were here.”

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said he was wary of answering most of the questions put forward to him because it was a matter of safety and security and he did not want to inform would-be criminals on safety and security matters in Central.

 

“We employed law enforcement officers and did not contract a company for this task,” Baron said.

 

He said all the officers had security training and were qualified peace officers, but he would not elaborate on the type of training they had received.

 

The Port Elizabeth High Court has ordered the municipality to pay an estimated R200000 in legal fees for Metro Security and finalise the tender for hiring a security company.

 

This comes after Metro Security approached the court to get the municipality to finalise the awarding of the security tender for the provision of protection and access control at various municipal sites. The application follows months of delay over the tender, estimated to be worth R90-million over three years.

 

Lee-Anne Butler - The Herald

 May 17, 2010
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