'I'm still scared': Can police rebuild trust with Olievenhoutbosch residents?
While two members of a hardened gang spreading terror in Olievenhoutbosch have been arrested, the community says they're still scared and don't trust the police completely just yet.
JOHANNESBURG - "The question of murder here, the question of rape here, needs to be taken care of." This was the promise Police minister Bheki Cele made to the crime-ridden Olievenhoutbosch community in Centurion when he visited it in May.
Although major changes have been made in the last three months, the community on Thursday said it would take time before they felt safe and trusted the police again.
The police confirmed to Eyewitness News that they arrested two people believed to be part of a hardened gang that terrorised the community of Olievenhoutbosch for years.
They were handcuffed and taken to court on Wednesday, where they were charged with murder and multiple house robberies, as well as possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition.
"I looked at the crime profile of this place [and] it's not good; it's bad. But what is worse is what you have raised about the police. That's on our shoulders as the ministry and the management of the police to come and restore the relationship," said Cele in May during a crime imbizo in the area.
The station commander has also been replaced, and Lieutenant Colonel Gert Corbett, who has 36 years of experience, has taken over the reins.
PROMISES UPON PROMISES
There seems to be a lot of work done to restore the relationship between the police and the community. Eyewitness News followed up on four of the most important promises Cele made to the community to see if he made good on any.
Promise 1: To appoint a task team to deal with complaints raised by residents.
Update: a task team was appointed from the Tshwane District detective's office. They are on the ground assisting with investigations and relooking cold cases.
Promise 2: To get more police cars on the road again. About 12 police cars were stuck at the garage waiting to be fixed, leaving officers with no transport for months.
Update: all dozen police vehicles are repaired and are being used by officers for patrolling.
Promise 3: To give about 1,800 cold cases that have been closed a relook. Families were left with no answers.
Update: over 500 dockets are now being investigated, but police can't say how many arrests have been made as some are still under investigation.
Promise 4: to revisit the area with the Tactical Response Team to go door-to-door and arrest wanted criminals.
Update: two of the most wanted suspects from a gang have been arrested for murder and a string of house robberies; earlier this month 200 undocumented migrants were arrested.
But there are many other concerns that the community raised with the police ministry that still need to be given attention.
Kenneth Masha is a community leader in Olievenhoutbosch. He is the one who wrote to Cele with a list of the residents' concerns, some of them being the high number of rapes, police visibility and illegal foreigners.
"The relationship with the police won't change overnight. We need more manpower; we need more vehicles on the ground. The police want to erect more mobile police stations, but the land identified belongs to council [City of Tshwane]. It seems they don't want to release the land," said Masha.
CPF A SOLUTION?
Women that Eyewitness News has spoken to about the high crime rate in the area said they were still living in fear.
"This place is not safe. I cannot go out at night, it's not safe," said this woman who added that she could still hear gunshots going off at night.
Another woman, who stayed not far from the police station, lost her husband during a house robbery last year. She too was shot at in the face. She said: "I'm still scared because I didn't know what those criminals were looking for. I still live with fear."
Masha said although they were happy that some of the gang members who had been terrorising the community were arrested, there were more criminals still hiding in rundown buildings.
"We still have a problem where we have a block of flats in this community in extension 36, that has been invaded. We believe amongst other people that invaded those flats were some hitmen emanating outside of our community. Whom for fun every night, go and shoot guns in the air and all of that; our community will be hearing those gunshots. This is known by the police."
The community is now also trying to set up its own Community Policing Forum (CPF) to help police with patrol work in the streets.
Many say it would take time before criminals realise they didn't have power to run the streets anymore, and for now, they remained indoors as soon as the sun sets over Olievenhoutbosch.