By John Ekongo
It has been noted that petty crime in Windhoek is increasing dramatically and extra care should be taken especially in informal settlements. Whereas criminals have always remained content with petty crime such as bag snatching, pick pocketing and con-artistry, they have become more daring, even causing permanent injury and at times death.
An apparently new preferred weapon for criminals is sending shockwaves among Windhoek residents, especially in the high-density areas of Katutura, Otjomuise and Khomasdal and some outlying informal settlements where residents fear for their lives.
Criminals have now resorted to using bricks to strike unsuspecting victims, usually a blow to the head.
City Police spokesperson, Assistant Superintendent Marx Hipandwa, said this method of assault is being perpetrated by gangs of thugs, many as young as 16 and usually young men who prey on their victims in the city’s many dry riverbeds.
The advantages of a brick are numerous, according to Hipandwa. It is not easily traceable and similarly the police won’t be able to trace it to its owner and if apprehended, chances of finding traceable fingerprints are virtually non-existent, making it a versatile weapon for any criminal.
What usually transpires during an attack, according to some residents, is that an assailant carrying a plastic bag with the brick inside would approach a victim.
For a layman, the shape of the brick inside the plastic bag resembles that of a loaf of bread, which would exclude worries about any danger. The assailant then hits their target as soon as their back is turned.
Community members in the affected areas have expressed concern about their safety.
Activist and community leader, Jan Majiedt, is a resident of Sewende Laan informal area, one of the most affected.
The area is completely tucked away from the city and is characterised by vast bushy spaces, with endless riverbeds and footpaths. Residents prefer these paths, as they offer shorter routes.
“It is a problem, but I must say that the police have done a great job, minimising these crimes around our areas,” commented Majiedt.
‘Oom Majiedt’, as he is commonly known, feels that the community should be blamed as well. He is of the opinion that perpetrators of these cruel crimes are sometimes known to the community and are even being protected.
Majiedt said only a concerted effort by the community and the police can effectively curb criminal activities in the informal settlement.
“We must work together, the community should understand that the police is there to help and protect us and when they want information about these crimes, they must come forward and help, and not keep the perpetrators in our homes. It is wrong.”
This sentiment was echoed by Chief Inspector Andreas Nelumbu, the Commanding Officer of the Wanaheda Police Station, under whose jurisdiction the informal areas of Sewende Laan and Agste Laan fall.
“We will engage the community leaders in our day-to-day planning, as well as ask them to identify problem areas,” comments Nelumbu.
Otjomuise, despite being a vast and rapidly expanding neighbourhood, has neither a police station nor substation. Members of the community have to report crime-related activities to the Wanaheda Police Station, some 3 km away.
However, this will soon be a thing of the past as there are plans to set up a 24-hour police station, and a site has already been identified.
“We are only waiting for our submission to be approved,” said Nelumbu.