Thieves prey on students

The safety of pupils and students who travel to and from school in the area around Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), are at risk as robberies and muggings in the area become an increasing concern for security authorities.

In the past two weeks, several pupils were robbed of their cellphones while travelling home from school or waiting for the bus.

At least one of the pupils was from Harold Cressy High School.

Cape Town Central police, however, made a breakthrough last week when they arrested four men for assault – two of them caught in the act of robbing a pupil believed to be from Trafalgar High School or Holy Cross Primary School in Zonnebloem. In response to enquiries from the CapeTowner, the City of Cape Town said they would deploy law enforcement officers to the area during the times that children commute to and from school.

While the principal of Harold Cressy could not be reached for comment, the principal of Trafalgar High School, Nadeem Hendricks, said almost every week, a pupil from his school came to the office to report that they had been robbed. “We have a lot of safety concerns when it comes to the MyCiTi bus stops at CPUT, as well as the bridge there, where these criminals hide.”

He said he often drove the route in the morning while on his way to work and had witnessed unsavoury characters walking in the area.

“I drive there myself to see that the children are safe. When I see them walking alone, I tell them to walk in groups. In the mornings, I stand at the gates of the school from 7am to greet the children, and I tell them they shouldn’t walk with their earphones because it makes them a target, but they don’t listen.

“There are a lot of people living in the field behind the bus stops. I’m not saying it’s them, but sometimes criminals hide among them, and the quickest way to get their next fix is to rob a child walking to school.” He said he had been in talks with the City and the police for years about creating a safe corridor for children travelling to and from school.

“Safety cannot be compromised. Ultimately, the City should be held responsible for this. CPUT has private security on its premises that it pays for, but we, as public schools, don’t have funds for security.

“The City needs to ensure that there are CCTV cameras or police visibility around.” He said while they often reported unsavoury characters in the area to the police, they were usually told that officers could not be deployed to the area unless a crime had been committed.

“The police sat in my office and told me that they don’t have the resources to have someone stand there. The City can deploy two law enforcement or Metro police officers at the hot spot areas.

Are you telling me they don’t have someone to stand there for three hours a day to make sure our children are safe?”

Cape Town Central police spokesman, captain Ezra October, said muggings and robberies in the area were of concern, but the arrest of four suspects last week had brought some relief.

He said on Thursday May 18, police members conducted an undercover operation after numerous reports from school principals of robberies in the vicinity of Primrose, Keizersgracht and Harrington streets in the early morning hours and after school. “After receiving information that alleged suspects were busy robbing a learner, the police members immediately followed up and they arrested two men, aged 24 and 33 years old, for attempted robbery and common assault in Primrose Street.

“At the same time, two officers were patrolling in the Keizersgracht Street vicinity when they spotted a robbery in progress where two men robbed a learner. The police gave chase on foot and arrested the men, aged 27 and 32 years, for robbery, possession of drugs and possession of car breaking implements.”

He said the police would oppose bail at their first court appearance.

Captain October said the police were also liaising with schools and the Department of Education’s Safe School Programme, to ensure the safety of pupils.

“We are requesting members of the public, including CPUT students and scholars of all surrounding schools to be vigilant, not to walk alone and walk together with a group of scholars.”

He said the police would also increase their visibility during the identified times. Jessica Shelver, the spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said the fact that pupils were being mugged on their way to and from school was extremely concerning.

She said the Safe Schools co-ordinator had met with City of Cape Town Law Enforcement to address the following issues:

BLOB identifying of the hotspot areas in the City Bowl;

BLOB integrated operational approach to address the threat;

BLOB the use of CCTV cameras as part of the operational approach;

BLOB awareness programmes at the school;

BLOB undercover observation operations;

BLOB the use of the equestrian unit on identified routes on problematic days and times; and

BLOB intervention by the school resource officers in terms of security education.

She said according to the WCED’s records, the schools have met with the police to report and request support in mornings and afternoons; encouraged parents to open cases against the perpetrators and held assemblies to raise awareness amongst learners to avoid walking through the identified areas.

She said the schools had also requested that parents volunteer to be present at hot spots and assist with a walking bus programme.

“While we do what we can to protect our learners while on the school premises, it is SAPS that is responsible for community safety and crime control. The MEC of community safety, Dan Plato will engage with (Western Cape police chief Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Elvis) Jula to increase patrols in these areas when learners are travelling to and from school.”

CPUT could not be reached for comment.