A Plumstead resident is concerned that the sale of drugs and stolen goods is taking place next to the railway line.
Ryan Abrahams said people are living on the railway line between Plumstead and Wittebome stations. His wife, Thirusha, showed where smoke was coming from a shack that had been erected against the vibracrete wall on the Wittebome side of the line.
The fence on the Plumstead side is low and broken in places and the couple suspect that the people in the shack are involved in criminal activities. There is also a large gap in the vibracrete on the Wittebome side of line.
“We’ve been living here now for 10 years,” Ms Abrahams said, adding that there seemed to be a spike in criminal activity along the railway line in the past two years.
“We hear people screaming in the road there at night as they’re being robbed,” she said, referring to Exeter Road, which runs parallel to the railway line.
Ms Abrahams said muggers use the low, broken fence as a quick getaway across the railway line.
Mr Abrahams said: “People are living on the railway tracks and more are moving in. We see on a daily basis many young- sters visiting these guys and moving goods in and out of their sacks on the railway line day and night.
“Late at night they are moving goods around and the amount of people going there is not good as they are certainly either selling or using drugs or both.”
Police confirmed that homeless people are living in a structure inside the ditch on the rail reserve on the Wittebome side of the line.
“It’s not a shack,” Warrant Office Keith Chandler said. “It’s a structure built with milk crates and plastic. It’s homeless people living there.”
Warrant Officer Chandler said the people have been removed several times but none of them has been linked to any crimes.
“They keep coming back,” he said. “We have checked their fingerprints and they’re not wanted. The worst thing they do is get drunk.”
He added that there has not been a spike in reported crime in the area.
Andrew Lillie, the chairperson of the Plumstead Neighbourhood Watch echoed this: “We are aware that there are a number of homeless people ‘squatting’ along the railway line by Exeter Road. It is a problem in that these people are inclined to litter and do not clean up afterwards. We are not aware of an increase in criminal activity in the area. As far as we are aware these persons are not linked to any criminal activity.”
According to the City, the land is owned by the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) and they therefore could not comment.
Zinobulali Mihi of Metrorail said: “Metrorail is not aware of any informal structures that have been set up on the rail reserve of the mentioned area. However, we don’t dispute that there might be community members or people that move to the rail reserve for various reasons. I also need to emphasise that Metrorail is not aware of any crime that is committed in the said area – we are only aware of crimes that are committed within the rail precinct.
“We encourage the community to report any rail related incidents to our Protection Services Department Toll Free Line, 0800 21 00 81 or 021 449 4336, alternatively use the Metro Transport Information Line, 0800 65 64 63.”