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Young terrors

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Young terrors

by Esther Lewis
27 Aug 2008
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

"WE'VE HAD ENOUGH." So say residents of Halmans Walk and Lugano and Mentz Courts in Hanover Park, who are sick and tired of criminal elements holding them hostage.

Last week an elderly woman on her way home from the supermarket was robbed of her tray of eggs and her dignity as she was pushed down to her knees.

This was reportedly done by children who know her and live in her area.

Houses are being broken into on a daily basis, and the items are allegedly resold to neighbours of the victims.

Residents say tik addicts peddle everything at their doorsteps, from appliances to fresh blocks of cheese.

Merchella du Plessis and Desiré Marlow, founders of the Halmans Walk Youth Development Committee, say the only way their community will get past this is if people start supporting each other and standing together.

Residents have enlisted their help in establishing a community watch.

They feel if more people discouraged the culture of nurturing young criminals in not trying to stop them, the area's crime would decrease drastically.

"We also need to get rid of these groups who stand on corners, making fires," says Du Plessis. She says people who walk past these groups often become soft targets.

Bonita Nurse of Lugano Court agrees with Du Plessis and Marlow, saying a big part of the problem is that parents allow their children to get away with wrong-doing. "It all begins at home," she says.

Nurse adds that residents fear going out for too long, because they don't know what awaits them when they return. A neighbour in Lugano Court says the young thieves have a "waiting list": they wait for certain people to leave their homes before they strike.

Yet, says Nurse, when adults speak out against the youngsters, their parents defend them. But there is one mother who doesn't put up with any nonsense from her children.

This mother's son, who is now 18 years old, started getting into trouble about two years ago.

He has been arrested several times on drug-related charges.

He was convicted of theft, but was given community service. He and his cronies feel it's a joke because he got off lightly.

The mother says there is something seriously wrong with the justice system. According to her, had the court officials done their jobs properly, her son's life could have turned out differently.

She claims that even though her son was given community service and placed under house arrest, no-one ever checked up on him.

"I wish they would send these children to jail and keep them there until they finish their schooling," she says.

Another grievance the people have is with the police service.

They claim the Philippi Police Station keeps sending out officers who can't communicate adequately. Marlow says it isn't the race of the officers that residents are frustrated with, but that the officers don't understand a community that speaks mostly Afrikaans.

Residents say officers must be accompanied by someone who understands their home language.

Senior Superintendent Johann Ellmann, who is Philippi's new station commissioner, says he does not decide who comes to his station. He also says that according to law, recruits are required to speak English and another language - but not necessarily Afrikaans.

Residents hosted a public meeting on Saturday to raise these issues and try get neighbours to take a stand against the abuse suffered at the hands of these youths.

While things may seem bleak for these areas, after the meeting, residents seem hopeful about finding a way of taking back ownership of their area.

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