LAW & ORDER
Gang-torn Belhar community to finally get a proper police station – 15 years later
On 22 December 2007, a storeroom in Belhar was converted into a police station, albeit an underresourced one with only two holding cells. For years, the cramped space was shared by suspects, police officers and complainants alike. After a heavy downpour, rainwater dripped down the walls. Now, finally, a piece of land has been approved for the construction of a proper police station.
The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee last week approved the transfer of a piece of land to the national government for the construction of a new police station in Belhar.
Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, said the sale of the land at a 25% discount showed the city was willing to support cooperative policing. The deal, now subject to final approval by the council, is a positive development in terms of community safety in a high-crime area.
“Public safety continues to be one of the city’s biggest priorities … The resource challenges faced by the SA Police Service in the Western Cape and Cape Town are well documented.”
Local police officers and residents have welcomed the move, especially since the new police station will be better equipped, have more holding cells and result in more boots on the ground.
Since the existing Belhar police station only has two holding cells, most suspects are transferred to Delft, Mfuleni, Bellville South or Khayelitsha police stations.
Western Cape MEC for Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagen Allen, added his voice to the chorus of approval, saying that Belhar was in dire need of another police station because the area was infamous for gang violence.
SAPS crime statistics for October to December 2022 show:
Patrick America, former president of the Belhar community policing forum (CPF), and Fahgmeeda Ameerodien-Singh, former secretary of the CPF, were overjoyed that plans to build a police station in Belhar had finally come to fruition.
America recalled that in December 2007, a storeroom for building materials was converted into a rudimentary police station.
“Rainwater still seeps down the walls and the floor is perpetually damp ... Alleged criminals and complainants share a small area in front of the improvised charge office. Both complainants and police officers are in danger in this situation. I recall a captain firing warning shots after being threatened inside the tiny police station.”
Back then, said America, there were only two officers on duty at the Belhar police station, while administrative duties were handled by reservists from neighbourhood watches and CPF members.
“I would sit at the police station, fill out forms and take notes. This prompted the Belhar CPF to request a new police station. The situation was critical and required immediate action. At the time, crime was rampant.”
The three main gangs in the area are the Sexy Boys, the 28s and the Mobsters. Against this background, the CPF and Belhar police management made recommendations to the city on a location for a new police station. A petition for a new building was signed by more than 2,000 people.
According to Ameerodien-Singh, the news that land had been authorised for a new police station had improved people’s morale and made residents feel safer. She said that while the existing police station had not stemmed the gangsterism and gang violence in the area, she hoped the new facility would increase police visibility and have an impact on crime.
“The community lives in fear… People are afraid to stroll the streets or go to mobile shops because so many innocent children have been killed. It took a 15-year battle to get where we are now.
“The only thing residents are concerned about is how long it will take to build a new police station,” she told Daily Maverick.
Police at the existing Belhar station agree that the current facility is far too small to provide an effective service to the community. They say they work under extremely stressful conditions and are looking forward to the day the new police station opens. Residents have asked the city not to delay construction as they fear that gang violence and drug trafficking will spiral even more out of control. DM