Police accused of failing Westlake

More than 170 people filled the Commando Hall in Westlake Village to talk about policing in the area. Picture: Janice Matthews

The police are missing in action in Westlake Village, said residents at a heated meeting just days after the violent deaths of a 15-year-old boy and a 26-year-old man in the overcrowded township plagued by alcohol- and drug-fuelled crime.

More than 170 people filled the Commando Hall on Wednesday September 26 to air their grievances about a lack of policing in the area.

Emotions were raw. Three days earlier, on Saturday September 23, 15-year-old Sange Kwababa died after being stabbed in the eye. He had been trying to break up a fight, according to Kirstenhof police spokeswoman Sergeant Deidre Solomon.

And later that evening, 26-year-old Abduraghman Daniels was shot in the stomach.

Sergeant Solomon said officers responding to a call-out found him lying in the road. He died later in hospital.

No arrests have been made.

Last Wednesday’s meeting was organised by the Kirstenhof police and the community police forum, and the precinct’s police chief, Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Jones, listened to complaints about a lack of policing in the township and calls for a mobile police station there.

Resident Matthew Adams blamed alcohol and drugs for the recent deaths and said police lacked manpower and were unresponsive.

“We need to know who we need to call when we are in this situation. Who do we need to call when Kirstenhof is not there?”

Thumi Matyala said calls to the police station went unanswered.

“Kirstenhof police station failed our residents many times not once. There are too many incidents that just happened here in Westlake. We need a mobile satellite police station in Westlake. This is not even the first time for us as residents of Westlake asking that. People don’t have money to Uber for their problems. Kirstenhof police station is far. I can’t walk.”

Westlake Village, with its 640-odd RDP homes was meant to house 3000 people from a nearby squatter camp, but has swelled to nearly 20 000, according to the Westlake United Church Trust, and many live in clusters of four to five shacks in the yards of the RDP homes.

From a show of hands, fewer than ten people out of the 170-odd at last week’s meeting were homeowners.

Kirstenhof police station’s Captain Xolani Nltaba acknowledged the residents’ complaints but urged them to be patient and work with police to combat crime. He said two critical posts had been filled – a visible policing commander and a branch commander for detective services – but the station was still short of 14 members. It should have 78 personnel but only had 64.

“It’s up to all of us to help decrease crime. It needs all of us to work together. It is not that we are just sitting in Kirstenhof. We also raise the challenges we experience with our provincial offices; the provincial offices also raise it to national. It is not that we like the current situation here. We know the challenges we are facing, but we promise as soon as we have manpower, things will change,” Captain Ntlaba said.

A feasibility study about five or six years ago had found that Westlake was too small and did not fit the criteria for a satellite station, said Lieutenant Colonel Jones, but he added that that assessment would need to be revisited.

Sergeant Kyle Johannes complained that residents were not reporting crime or would later withdraw cases, and Warrant Officer Reece Harvey claimed crime had fallen in the greater Westlake area, although he conceded that violent crime was up 32%.

A 20% drop in other “contact-related” crime, a 52% drop in property-related crime and 48% drop in thefts and fraud accounted for an overall 26% drop in crime, he claimed.

Ward councillor Carolynne Franklin said the community’s involvement was lacking at public meetings to discuss long-term municipal planning projects including one to rehabilitate Westlake River and other waterways, and she drew angry howls from those in the hall, when she said Westlake residents dumped rubbish in the canal and complained that City public-participation officials didn’t come to where they lived, “but if there is a dog fight, if there is a stabbing, if there is free food, then everybody knows where to come… If you are not prepared to work together with the City, together with SAPS… then we are going nowhere so please, I beg of you, phone SAPS if you need them.”

Anyone with information about the latest violent deaths in the area can contact investigating officer Sergeant Van Wyk at 021 702 8900.

Kirstenhof police chief Lieutenant Colonel Edgar Jones says a feasibility study about five or six years ago ruled out a satellite police station for Westlake but that assessment will need to be looked at again. He is seen here with CPF chairman Geoff Bettison. Picture: Janice Matthews