We went to Central Square again this morning, to drop off the DVD we had watched last night, when I saw Johan, the friendly security guard with the bleached yellow hair, standing around.
He is always walking around the Square, sitting on one of the benches in the adjoining park, keeping an eye on all the shops and talking with everyone. I think he knows all the assorted beggars and vagrants who loiter around the parking lot. Sometimes he steps in to chase them away if they become threatening or abusive towards each other or towards shoppers who don’t want to pay them for watching their cars.
I always feel safe when he is around. When I’d heard that a security guard had been shot yesterday, my first question was whether it had been Johan. I was so relieved to hear it wasn’t, and that he had been off-duty on Sunday.
I walked up to him to wish him Happy Easter, and he beamed at me brightly, wishing me and my family a Happy Easter in return. I asked whether he had heard of yesterday’s incident, and he replied that he had indeed. He said he’d been in Paarl at a braai at 9:00 on Sunday morning, when his cellphone rang. It was one of the regular customers at the Square, who knew that he worked there and who wanted to make sure that he was okay. And for the rest of Sunday, he got one phonecall after another, not only from anxious friends, but also from shop owners and customers in the area, who were most relieved to hear that he was okay.
He also told me that the security guard was okay, and in fact stable enough to leave the hospital, as the bullet had gone right through his shoulder. Thank God.
But on a more alarming note, Johan also said that the relocation of the Pinelands Police Station, which has been in St Stephen’s Road for many decades, has led to an increase in crime and vagrancy in the vicinity. At the end of January this year, the Police Station relocated to larger premises close to Old Mutual, on the northern edge of Pinelands. I don’t know why this was really necessary, although it probably had to do with the fact that they were renting the building in St Stephen’s Road and that it had become too small to house all the criminals they catch.
I personally think it was a lousy stinking idea. We used to walk or drive past there every day, and it felt sooo comforting to know that they were nearby if anything happened. Now they are literally at the end of the world from us.
Johan added that the abandoned building was now being used by vagrants, with about 12 homeless people, most of them youths, sleeping there every night. Not only that, but they had stripped off all the copper pipes (to sell them for scrap), and they had ripped out sections of the roof in order to get at the geyser to cut it up, and the place inside looked absolutely filthy.
The consensus from the surrounding residents seems to be – please bring the Police Station back! Perhaps it is time to find out what our local Councillor, Brian Watkyns, can do to help?
The following article appeared in today’s paper: “Brave staffers tackle armed robbers”