Harfield Village residents ready to fight back at criminals

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Attempted kidnappings, car theft, muggings and trespassing onto properties have left Harfield Village residents fed up with crime and ready to fight back.

The usually quiet middle class neighbourhood, nestled between Claremont and Kenilworth, is otherwise a portrait of suburban bliss.

Its houses are neatly lined, with streets and the public park safe enough for walks into the early evening. Its main commercial hub, 2nd Avenue, is home to restaurants and estate agents, creating a lively buzz.

Over the last few months though, with the festive season drawing nearer, residents have experienced an upswing in crime.

Not far up the road on 2nd Avenue, which starts in Harfield Village and connects with neighbouring Kenilworth, Bangladeshi shop owner Boshir Ahmed plays a video showing the audacity of a criminal.

In the video, on November 5 at 3:30am, a man is seen smashing his bakkie into the shop’s glass doors. The man’s face is clearly visible as her enters the shop twice to steal two cash registers that Ahmed said had only R400 in total.

“We have been here for four years. It’s the first time we have this crime. We don’t feel safe. Anything can happen. They can break in again,” said Ahmed.

Shop owner Boshir Ahmed has video footage of a break-in at his shop, located on 2nd Avenue in Kenilworth. He fears criminals will attack again. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

Shop owner Boshir Ahmed has video footage of a break-in at his shop, located on 2nd Avenue in Kenilworth. He fears criminals will attack again. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

The incident has been reported to the local police and no arrests have yet been made.

“There’s a parking area near the station and people break into cars. It seems like crime is increasing. We see this in the newspapers and know from people that there are shop robberies in areas nearby. Crime is increasing everywhere.”

Damien Mocke, Harfield Village resident on the executive committee of the HarLyn Neighbourhood Watch, said the “community is concerned and deeply worried by the increase in crime”.

“There definitely appears to be an increase in crime. There is generally an increase in crime towards the end of every year, and this year seems no different,” said Mocke.

“The types of crimes vary from trespassing and common theft through to robbery and muggings. Of grave concern are two alleged attempts of kidnapping and abduction in the area and one just outside our area.

“There was an attempted kidnapping of an inebriated female patron in the early hours of a weekend morning from a local nightclub. The second was an attempted kidnapping or abduction of two teenage girls walking home from a local restaurant in the middle of a Saturday afternoon.

“The one just outside our area was allegedly of a female Japanese student in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon.”

Mocke said residents were considering “increased private security throughout the Harfield Village area”. A meeting has been called for December 1 to discuss this and other concerns about crime.

“HarLyn aims to help people protect themselves and their properties, and to reduce the fear of crime by means of active, visible citizen patrols… and by fostering a community spirit,” said Mocke.

He added: “I believe crime is on the increase throughout Cape Town… The police are thin on quality, trained personnel but I believe that they are doing the best they can with the limited tools and resources they have.”

Lew Norgarb, owner of Norgarb Properties on 2nd Avenue, said their “car was stolen three months ago” in the area.

Harfield Village resident Lew Norgarb points to a map of Harfield Village where crime has seen an increase recently. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

Harfield Village resident Lew Norgarb points to a map of Harfield Village where crime has seen an increase recently. (Pic by Yazeed Kamaldien)

Norgarb lived and worked in Harfield Village for the last decade. He said the crime spike has not negatively affected property prices.

Norgarb said through his work he has become “extremely invested in the area”. He runs a local website which lists 250 local businesses and keeps residents updated with news.

“We don’t live in a hotspot of crime. But there has been an increase in crime. There have been a lot of people reporting incidents. We hear it from our clients,” said Norgarb.

“I’ve also had someone in my lounge at 3am. He was on Tik and ran away.”

Norgarb listed a few possible causes for the crime increase in Harfield Village.

Criminals find it easy to break into cars because “we don’t have a lot of secure off-street parking,” he said.

“There has also been a massive increase in the amount of people who rummage our bins. It gives criminals an excuse to loiter and act as if they are homeless. But we don’t know if someone’s a criminal because you can’t pull them over just because they’re going through a dirt bin.”

Norgarb added: “We get a lot of foot traffic from Harfield Village train station when people go to work at Access Park and Kenilworth Centre (two busy retail spaces). It’s difficult to know if someone is a criminal or just passing through.”

He cautioned: “Too many people (in the area) have their heads in the sand”.

“They need to be more vigilant. They need to communicate with each other. They need to attend community meetings. We need a collective approach,” he said.

“The community is fed up with crime and we would like to have it sorted out.”

Resident Di Loftus, who has been living in the area for 24 years, said crime has meant they have somewhat locked-up lives.

“We never had crime but now people are fed up with it. We have alarms, spikes on our walls and security gates. That’s the norm for everybody these days. You can’t live without it. That’s just life in South Africa,” said Loftus.

“People knock on our doors a lot and ask for stuff. We can’t open the doors anymore because that’s a risk. You can’t trust people.

“After my bag was stolen from inside my home, I got a security gate. My son’s car was parked on our property and the wheels were stolen off.”

She added: “Fortunately people look out for each other in Harfield Village. It’s a very nice area. We can still walk around in the early evening. You just have to be vigilant.”

Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut, spokesman for the Western Cape police, said they had “no record or statistics to confirm the claim that crime has increased in the Harfield Village area”.

“We encourage the public to be more vigilant and security conscious during this time of the year… We also encourage communities to participate in neighbourhood watches and to look after your neighbour’s vacant property when they have left for the holidays,” he said.

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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