Volunteers tackle Joburg park safety
● Community organisations and volunteers have taken matters into their own hands to make Johannesburg parks safer.
According to the charity Jozi Trails, 19 muggings have been reported between William Nicol Drive and the top of the trails at the botanical gardens in Emmarentia since the start of the year. Last year, 29 attacks were reported.
Hot spots include trails between William Nicol and Jan Smuts below Old Parks, along Dale Brook Crescent and in Delta Park in Blairgowrie.
After incidents are reported on social media, the organisation tracks down and interviews victims, loads information onto a database and, with the help of the South African Police Service, builds a profile of attacks.
The rise in muggings has prompted Jozi Trails to launch the “Trail Guardian” project to safeguard Delta Park.
Jozi Trails general manager David Kramer said volunteers wearing high-visibility vests supplied by Joburg City Parks & Zoo and carrying panic buttons linked to security providers will patrol Delta Park and nearby sections of the spruit.
So far, 65 people have signed up for daily patrols between 6.30am and 8am and between 4pm and 6pm.
“The Trail Guardians patrol a designated safe route around the park. They observe and report anything suspicious to the security service providers, who, once alerted, can dispatch a vehicle to investigate,” Kramer said.
Resident Jan Dirix said he was cycling on the Braamfontein trail on March 20 when he was attacked close to a bridge near William Nicol Drive.
“Two guys jumped on me and one held a gun against my head,” he said. “The other one had a knife and he slashed my tyres and then they started looking in my pockets. They took my phone, my earphones and my watch.
“I used to cycle almost every day, especially the trail because I would cycle it all the way to Fourways, but now I am a bit scared to go back.”
Gauteng police spokesperson Capt Kay Makhubele said no arrests had been made in the case.
A second victim, who asked not to be named, said he walks his dogs in Delta Park every day “with my wife and my daughter, and jog and cycle in the park”.
Last month, at dusk, two men approached them. “One of the guys showed us a gun in the belt of his pants and threatened to shoot us and asked for our phones and money. We gave them what we had. They took our watches off and searched us for phones, which we didn’t have.
“He actually brushed up against my wife with this gun and she felt that it was plastic, but we weren’t going to do anything because he might have had a knife.”
The man said the attackers were arrested by a security company after they allegedly also robbed a gardener in the area.
In Bryanston, Kerry Harrison and Nicci Robertson launched Free2RunSA in July last year, roping in security companies to patrol running routes during peak times after a number of muggings of runners and walkers in Bryanston.
“A couple of security companies … were keen and we started a route in Bryanston. It spiralled and now we have seven routes,” said Harrison — in Bryan Park, Beverley, Douglasdale, Linden and Blairgowrie.
The security companies patrol for 90 minutes every morning and evening.