Talk of the Town

Proactive policing required

- Jon Houzet

More than 10 years ago, I can remember there being a sign at the start of the dirt road leading to Centenary Park which stated something along the lines of: “This is a high crime area. Enter at your own risk.“

This was erected after a number of robberies had taken place in the area, mostly of anglers who were mugged, or people driving in their cars who found the road blocked by debris placed there by robbers who then accosted them.

The sign was an indication the SAPS had given up putting a stop to crime in the park, which is fondly remembered by long-time Port Alfred residents as a place for family picnics, accessed by both boat and car.

One of the most prominent incidents I recall was of a man who was unfortunat­ely carrying a substantia­l amount of cash when he was robbed while driving through Centenary Park with his wife.

This was after the site already had a reputation for being a crime hotspot.

The sign has since disappeare­d, which is tragic, as it is a beautiful part of the Kowie River.

Newcomers or visitors to Port Alfred may not know of the park’s crime problem, however. One such person was Peter van Staden, who started taking his dogs for walks there early during the lockdown last year, as the beach was off-limits.

After weeks without incident, he became a victim.

The culprits used the tactic of blocking the road with rocks and branches. He exited his vehicle to look, and before he realised it, he was attacked.

He didn’t even know how many people had started beating him. He was left bloodied and unconsciou­s and required surgery for his broken nose. His assailants had stolen his gold ring, cellphone, prescripti­on sunglasses, normal spectacles and wallet, though he had no cash in it. His dogs were still in the car, unharmed. This week, we heard of two visitors from Makhanda (Grahamstow­n) who were similarly unaware that Centenary Park is unsafe.

While fishing there, they were accosted by five men armed with a firearm and knives, and robbed of their wallets containing cash and cards.

The robbers even removed the sound system from their car.

Mercifully, they were not assaulted. But there have been other violent robberies further up the Kowie at Cob Hole.

It is high time that the SAPS tackles these ongoing incidents and not simply wash its hands of “crime hotspots”.

Police officers should stake out these areas and pose as anglers to catch these violent thugs in the act.

Newcomers or visitors to Port Alfred may not know of the park’s crime problem

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