Athlone police station’s visible policing commander told a public meeting on Saturday that the station had only learnt the day before that it would be getting a new police chief this week.
“We haven’t received a reason why; we only found out on Friday,” Colonel Louis Solomons told the handful of residents who met at Athlone High School on Saturday.
Colonel Junaid Alcock – formerly Table View’s station commander – became Athlone’s third police chief in five years on Monday.
The meeting had been called to address the crime concerns of Silvertown, Bridgetown, Kewtown and Parktown residents, but only 20 people attended including the Athlone ward councillor, four CPF members and two police officers.
Athlone Community Police Forum chairwoman Sharon Classen said that it was disheartening that the police chiefs kept changing because the CPF had to start from scratch to forge a new partnership with them.
“I hope that the new station commander will know what the way forward is. It is very frustrating; we have to rebuild that partnership again.”
Ivor Marais, a social worker at the Department of Social Development’s Athlone office, complained that Athlone police refused to escort them to remove children from problem homes in the area after 11pm.
“We were furious that we couldn’t get help. It is becoming a trend that they don’t help us,” he said.
Ralph Daniels, from Kewtown, called for police to mount undercover patrols in the area on Fridays to catch drug dealers selling drugs to school pupils.
“Children first go to the merchants before and after school especially in Statice Square and Heights. It has been going on for quite a long time. It happens in Athlone as well.”
In response to Ms Classen’s claim that hijackings were on the rise, Colonel Solomons advised residents to stay alert when leaving or returning to their homes.
“If you see people in the road you don’t know, call SAPS and give a good description. I must commend neighbourhood watches for being so vigilant and helpful. They are a great help for SAPS,” he said.
Nigel Diedericks, of Crawford, suggested police do more to pinpoint the kingpins behind the hijackings. “The cars are being stripped in Khayelitsha,” he said.
Mr Diedericks also said cable thieves operating in Hazendal during load shedding had been seen using a white Toyota Hilux.
Carol April, of Athlone, claimed swindlers operating from a black Citroën in the vicinity of Shoprite were getting people to hand over R150 as well as their IDs by promising them jobs that never materialised.
“We need to stop the trend now,” she said.
Ward councillor Rashid Adams said that many residents complained about vagrants, but it was illegal for the City to remove them without a court order.
“A lot of vagrants are mentally challenged. It is difficult for us to deal with them. Our hope is to relocate them with their families.”
Children who were seen drinking and doing drugs should be reported to the authorities but locking them up was not the answer, he said.
“We also have to look at circumstances, where the child comes from? We need to look at what can we can do collectively to eradicate drugs. We can’t just lock children up. We need to come up with solutions together and not just keep complaining. Residents must report crimes.”