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Almost overnight, Newcastle went from encountering the random expressionless, tatty clothed person with a hand out at a traffic light. Or a group of vagabonds hustling for change on Victoria road. To a town riddled with homeless at multiple intersections, in shops, even becoming a problem for shopping centres. What makes this sudden eruption more concerning would be the apparent increase in crime over the same period.
Since the implementation of the lockdown and the start of the R350 COVID-19 grant, Jan van Rensburg of Magenta stresses that the situation of beggars in town and their link to crime has definitely increased. “Throughout the whole town, it has become worse, and I would say that it (petty crime) has actually doubled.”
The Newcastle SAPS Communications Department confirms the link between petty crime and these opportunistic individuals, highlighting, “The majority of them live under the bridge on Allen Street. They will pretend to be beggars, see what you have in your car, and strike if there is an opportunity. This is why it is important not to have valuables and your cellphone exposed when driving.”
Van Rensburg adds, one such incident recently took place on Allen Street at the traffic lights near the Farmer’s Hall, where a man grabbed a woman’s necklace off her while she was stationary at the traffic light. Stating, “People now need to drive with their windows closed and keep their doors locked at all times.”
Police reports often highlight Murchison Street, Terminus Street, Scott Street and Voortrekker Road as petty crime hotspots. But van Rensburg points out Allen Street and Taxi City are without question on the list.
With the police and Magenta connecting a link between crime and local beggars, the Newcastle SAPS Communications Department highlights, not only are the police conducting regular patrols, but they are also activating informers and working alongside security companies in town. “We have a good relationship with a number of security companies, as we unfortunately cannot be everywhere.”
In light of this, Van Rensburg explains that shopping centres and several businesses are now using security companies simply to ensure beggars do not come onto their premises. “It gives the company a bad name if there are beggars on their property. Also, these beggars harass women and the elderly, as they are often easier targets.” However, the centre management of Amajuba Mall states, “While there are those who will try their luck, we do our best to ensure there are no beggars in the complex.”
There appears to be a clear issue on the rise and a need for a solution. What are your thoughts on the matter? How do you feel the issue should be addressed? Have you been a victim of a crime where a beggar was involved?
Share your views and stories in the comment section below.
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