Athbiz, a group of Athlone business owners, is set on taking back the Athlone CBD and making it safer for consumers.
The group is encouraging shoppers to return to the CBD and has hired Alcatraz Security to patrol the CBD during trading hours to ensure the safety of shoppers.
Says Shaheed Shaik, chairperson of Athbiz, "We are a non-profit organisation and are using all our profits to promote consumer safety and security in this area. We represent both formal and informal traders and hope to effect a positive change with consumers actually wanting to come here".
Athlone CBD has been identified by the Athlone Police as a priority area for combating crime.
Ian Gordon, secretary of Athbiz, says, "People are even scared to come to the library. When something happens, you phone 10111 and they do respond, but the response time is not fast enough.
"We need a first-time response that is in the area and can react quickly and take control."
Shafiek Gierdien, Athbiz executive member, has been a tailor at his family business, based in the CBD for the past 40 years.
"There are days when you hardly see anyone in the streets and the CBD is completely dead," he says. "If people refuse to come here and things continue like this, pretty soon, the CBD will turn into a ghost town."
Athbiz plans on establishing partnerships with other community stakeholders to help safeguard the business district.
"We want to safeguard the area for, for example, pensioners who come here to shop," Shaik says.
"ATMs have been targeted and so the banks have employed security guards. Criminals have seen this, so instead of attacking people at ATMs, people are attacked as soon as they get around the corner from the bank. We want to give them protection even after they leave the bank," he says.
Faruk Jacobs from Alcatraz says the company has been conducting patrols from 12 September. "We have already identified suspicious elements, drug users and drug peddlers, who are being monitored. All the businesses also have our contacts and we have met with a lot of them so they know who to call when anything happens. The criminal elements are already aware that we're on the streets because we have noticed that it is very quiet in the area."
Athbiz plan to make the CBD a safer place in preparation for it becoming a City Improvement District (CID).
"The CID model has really worked in other communities and we want to reap the benefits here in our community," Shaik says, "but we are trying to make the area more compatible for the adoption of the CID model. And we will do so. All we have to do is be persistent and consistent - just as the criminals are. If the criminals can be persistent and consistent, then why can't the good people in the CBD also be?"