Drugs fuelling Mowbray crime wave, say residents

Hypodermic needles found in Mowbray.

Mowbray residents are worried about the growing number of hypodermic needles they’re finding on their streets, suggesting increased drug use in the area.

They say rising drug use is behind a spike in crime in the neighbourhood.

Railway and municipal land behind the Mowbray train station and behind houses in Strubens Road is littered with trash and residents say drug addicts use the spot to shoot up.

A resident, who didn’t want to be named because he fears for his safety, said: “The waste found in these areas is mostly coming from the drug users and the homeless. A lot of the mess is caused by their waste, as well people taking bins and waste from the city or house dustbins, then bringing around the back to go through the rubbish. During the last year, the vagrant problem has been much worse, particularly as a result of lockdown and the limited powers that the City of Cape Town has to remove them.“

Vagrancy is a problem behind Mowbray railway station.

Drug use was happening in broad daylight around the train station, he said.

“The public shouldn’t have to walk around the area and see hypodermic needles lying all over the ground. It’s extremely dangerous in case children pick these disposed needles up and play with them.

“These needles being given by NGOs may be helping the homeless with the dropping of HIV/Aids, but if it really is such a safe method to reduce these diseases, it’s not working effectively enough.”

Drug users were using needles others had discarded to shoot up, he said.

The NGOs that distributed the needles should be held responsible for cleaning up the sites used by the addicts, he said.

Ward councillor Paddy Chapple said there had been a “marked increase” in the number of people seen shooting up in public.

“It is regularly reported by members of the public. It seems to me that there are definitely dealers operating in the area, and crime intelligence should perhaps focus on the merchants, how they operate and where they operate.”

Mr Chapple said neighbourhood watch groups had reported a rise in crime in the vicinity of the Mowbray railway line.

Mowbray Community Police Forum chairman Jonathan Hobday said addicts were committing crime to feed their addiction.

“There is a clear correlation between growing drug use and growing crime in any area because drug users steal and rob to pay for their fix.”

Illegal dumping snowballed if it wasn’t cleaned up quickly, he warned, noting that the Strubens Road site had been a problem for decades.

Mowbray residents are worried about the growing number of hypodermic needles they’re finding on their streets.

Liesbeek Neighbourhood Watch committee member Carol Thomson said the needles when not disposed of properly were a danger to the public.

“I don’t think handing out clean needles causes the problem,” she said, but added that more pressure should be put on those using the needles to dispose of them properly.

TB HIV/Care is a non-profit health organisation that distributes needles and syringes to drug addicts to reduced the chances of them getting HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne diseases.

TB HIV Care spokeswoman Alison Best said: “The reasons that needles and syringes are discarded often has to do with harassment they experience from law enforcement when they are found with needles, despite it being legal to carry them. As a result, the needles are sometimes disposed of hurriedly when people who inject drugs feel under threat.”

Drug addicts not provided with needles and syringes were more likely to share needles, putting them at much greater risk of blood borne diseases, she said.

The NGO gave drug addicts portable “sharps” containers, in which used needles could not be extracted once inserted, she said. Regular clean-ups were also done at the public spots where addicts injected themselves.

The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa did not respond to questions by deadline.