Patrons no sure bet

LAUREN O’CONNOR-MAY

Langley Road in Wynberg is littered with betting tickets, used condoms and wrappers – the latter is evidence of activities by prostitutes, residents say – and drug dealing and abuse allegedly takes place in the open.

“I’ve seen them exchanging money and little packets in and out of cars. The other day a guy was smoking a tik lolly in the street,” one resident, who did not wish to be named, said.

A camera has been put up outside Hollywood Bets but residents say this has had no effect. They claim the bookmaker, which moved into the ground floor of Langwyn flats a little more than a year ago, has attracted criminal activities to the area, so residents want it shut down.

However, Emma Dove, the manager of Hollywood Bets, said the establishment does not condone criminal activity on its premises and have co-operated with police.

“We are working with police. They asked us to install cameras and we did it in a matter of weeks. The police also do regular raids.”

According to several residents and business owners in Langley and the surrounding roads, the area has never been crime free but since Hollywood Bets opened its doors it has become markedly worse.

“Guys are doing drugs right outside my door,” one business owner, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, said. “Hollywood Bets put up a camera but it hasn’t been a deterrent. The shops on the Main Road have lost a huge amount of business.”

A resident in Langley Road, who has lived there for 17 years, said the crime and grime in the road is “10 times worse” since Hollywood Bets moved in.

“We call the police and are reporting these things all the time but by the time they come they have moved on again.”

The resident, who also didn’t want to be named, said there was a lot of fear among residents. “We’ve been asked to try and jot down the number plates of the cars but it’s hard to do that without exposing yourself. They should put more cameras in the road.”

Georgia Lahusen, who lives a few streets away, said: “Every time I drive down Langley Road, I witness at least one drug deal. Perpetrators loiter behind cars in front of the block of flats behind Hollywood Bets and conduct their trade there. By the time I have dialled the number of the police sector van, the perpetrators have left or disappeared into the crowd of people hanging about.”

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Athol Swanson, of the Wynberg Improvement District, said the bookmaker attracts a crowd prone to criminal activity to the area.

“It’s not the business itself but the element it attracts,” he said.

He added that a lot of the illegal activity that residents are unhappy about continue at night when the bookmaker is already closed.

“We’ve had public meetings and addressed these issues with Hollywood Bets and someone from there is cleaning it up. They’ve put up CCTV cameras in and around the place and there have been some arrests. What we are doing now is addressing these issues, the drinking in public and illegal parking.”

Eugene Dreyer of the Wynberg Neighbourhood Watch said the illegal activities witnessed by residents are happening in other areas of Wynberg too.

“These activities in Wynberg are not limited to the area outside Hollywood Bets but are perhaps most visible there,” he said.

Mr Dreyer said criminals being allowed to take up permanent residence in the area is part of the problem.

“A large contributor to this is the problem buildings in nearby Ebor Road. The owners of these properties have repeatedly failed to take the necessary steps to prevent criminals from living in their properties and criminal activity from taking place in and around their properties. The City of Cape Town and SAPS have been engaged in trying to clean-up these buildings for a number of years but the impression is that the landlords are indifferent to the anti-social activity emanating from their properties,” he said.

Lieutenant Nthombi Nqunqeka, the communications officer for Wynberg police, said there have been several arrests for drugs and prostitution in and around Hollywood Bets and on one occasion a man caught dealing drugs inside the bookmaker tried to swallow it to avoid arrest.

“Police managed to get the drugs out of his mouth and arrested him for the possession of tik,” Lieutenant Nqunqeka said.

“Police are trying by all means to eradicate this unacceptable behaviour. Operations are conducted on a weekly basis to curb this. We would like to thank all those members of the public who came forward and informed the police of all these criminal activities”.