I’m well aware of crime, having experienced much of it in Durban. I’ve seen enough blood. I know what it’s like to fear for my life. Once settled in Knysna, i was a realist and expressed to others that Knysna was simply ahead of the curve and that crime was inescapable due to socio-economics. People have gotten a lot poorer since then and more are abusing drugs. Crime, like an inevitable monster from a horror movie, has caught our beautiful town.
So what is happening in Knysna?
The majority of my neighbours have been robbed. Just last week, at 10.45am, a wonderfully sunny morning, there was an attempted robbery 2 houses away. The robber was trying to break the burglar guards which prompted screams and the pushing of the All Sound alarm by the lady who works from home. The would-be criminal then escaped into Pledge Nature Reserve. I believe that i’ve been very lucky in avoiding muggings, one time the garbage collectors chasing a gang who were almost upon me (on the hill behind Knysna Tourism).
Contact crimes (violent crime against a person) are up 12%. Car break-ins in the city centre are way up.
Reflect on these that have been in the news lately:
- September 28 – 2 men with guns rob a home in Hunter’s Home, tying up the residents.
- September 26 – 3 women robbed at knife point in Knysna central during broad daylight. Note that this was in Tourism Lane, about 10m from the corner of the Knysna Tourism building. It’s also a route i often take home.
- September 21 – Cornuti Restaurant, at The Heads, robbed.
- September 15 – Rheenedal couple tied up and held at gun point before robbers made off with their car, jewellery and more. What most don’t know is that the police caught up to them in Queen Street in town. 9 shots were fired. Robbers escaped into bush below Concordia. Car recovered.
- September 06 – 3 intruders robbed a Belvidere family. Gunshot fired. 2 men arrested.
- September 06 – 3 men robbed an unidentified restaurant in Belvidere. 3 shots fired.
- August 24 – Rheeendal School bus crash.
- August 18 – A woman from Knysna is abducted in Plettenberg Bay in an attempt to get her work’s bank account number. She was later released with no memory of how she’d gotten from where she was being held to where she was found.
- August 15 – 3 men rob a home in Upper Olde Place, beating a 65yr old resident into a coma. He later died. Police took 1 hour to arrive at the scene.
White crime tends to make the news more but have no doubt that crime is much bigger in the poorer, unfortunately named “townships” (in Knysna, i prefer the term Northern Suburbs because it reminds that they are part of Knysna and part of us). Nevertheless, some cases made the news this year. In January, tragically, a 5yr old was abducted and raped. In July, 22-year-old Brenda de Bruyn’s body was found in a pathway between the Uniondale Road and Khayelethu Village. She had been strangled to death.
Undoubtedly, we need the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Municipal Law Enforcement to keep us safe but there is a culture of mistrust between them and the public. How do we separate the good cops from the bad cops so that more crimes are reported and prevented? This mistrust results from the Knysna police having been cast in the news negatively. Whether it’s a policeman being bust for drug dealing and later getting a promotion or a woman alleging being raped by 2 policemen in the back of their vehicle in a shopping centre’s parking lot, there is reason for the public to feel uneasy. Many believe that the huge amount of drugs in town can only exist if cops are involved.
The SAPS needs to do more to alter this impression. They rarely give us updates on major crimes. And if the good cops aren’t standing strongly against the bad ones, then how can encouragement for the public to bring cases forward be anything but hollow or reduce the fear of consequence? Sometimes, instead of getting answers, reporters are even referred to the publicity agent the municipality has hired, an incredibly ironic action since i experienced Mayor Georlene Wolmarans and Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman shirking responsibility, as always, saying i should get answers from the SAPS.
One possible reason for the unwillingness to get on top of the situation and open clear lines of communication with the public is to protect tourism. As with so many problems in Knysna, our leaders are incredibly short-sighted. Identifying problems and sorting them is far better for tourism is the long run. It’s also better for our lives now.
There is much more to said so consider this the first blog on the topic. It’s pointless me contacting the DA-led Council as they are more like a secret service than a public service. However, i will do my best to get answers and the SAPS’s view (and suggestions) by contacting SAPS media liaison officer, Constable Chris Spies, and station commander, Colonel Nolan Michaels.