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Savoy-Waverley gated to improve security

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The leafy north-eastern suburbs of Waverley and Savoy are soon to become a gated community in an effort to combat crime and take back the streets for those living there.

The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) has granted permission to transform these areas – which have many Jewish residents – into an estate by early September. They will be surrounded by exterior fencing, with roads closed off and a limited number of controlled entrances and exits.

The campaign to create the estate has been driven by Community Active Protection (CAP) and the residents of these suburbs. CAP will actively patrol the estate, which has about 650 households. CAP’s chief operating officer, Sean Jammy, said that though violent crime had gone down in the area, petty crime such as the theft of lights, gate motors, and security cameras had increased.

“CAP has traditionally focused on serious and violent crime. This is what makes people want to emigrate,” he said. “Our methodology is to understand crime patterns and take the criminals off the streets. We now have to adapt to fighting this petty crime.”

Jammy said the July 2021 riots had led to heightened vigilance and preparedness for future incidents. A gated suburb had defendable boundaries.

“Most tellingly,” said Jammy, “we have witnessed massive degradation of services in Johannesburg. The roadsides aren’t maintained, there are weeds, there’s litter. We need to stop the urban creep.”

Road closures require various steps, starting with a group of residents who want to enclose their roads, followed by extensive stakeholder engagement. A threshold of 70% of residents need to consent to proposed road closures. A formal application and motivation are sent to the city council. A traffic survey must be conducted, and a period for objections must be given. The JRA must give consent for drilling into pavements and roads for the erection of fences and barriers.

This final go-ahead was received last week for CAP to erect and operate the estate. Initial permission is granted for two years. The formal application process for these suburbs took more than a year, compounded by COVID-19 delays.

The application must demonstrate that the road closures would be non-discriminatory and permit freedom of movement. “You can’t treat residents differently from non-residents,” Jammy said, “or paying from non-paying residents. You cannot refuse access or gather information that’s not observable. This is checked and monitored by the city, and permission can be revoked.”

Sol Swartz, a member of the Waverley Residents, Ratepayers & Homeowners Association, said the enclosure was important to reduce crime and allow people to reclaim their streets.

“Waverley has become a throughfare from Glenhazel through to Sandton,” Swartz said, “These streets were never built to be thoroughfares.”

Jammy said road closures get motorists to use the main arterial roads in the way they were designed to be used rather than running through the suburbs. “People get stuck on the traffic issue,” he said. “It’s a non-issue. In the morning and afternoons, extra gates can be opened.”

The enclosure depends on financial contributions from residents, and CAP recommends an average amount of R800 per household per month. Some pay more, some pay less, and some don’t contribute at all. Jammy said the scheme currently had a contribution rate of about 60%. “Everyone should pay their fair share, but you always get free riders. We’re gratified with the response, and people can see the big picture.”

Swartz believes the amount being asked isn’t exorbitant. “What’s unfair is when people don’t pay. We want everyone to contribute even a little bit, even though we acknowledge that times are tough and there’s donor fatigue. But this isn’t like charity that you’re giving to someone else – you’re effectively paying for your own security.”

Jammy stressed that in spite of being founded by Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein, CAP is non-denominational. “It’s about communities coming together to make themselves safer. The community building element is gratifying. A well-run road closure definitely enhances the value of homes.”

Not everyone is happy about the enclosure, however. Desmond Backos, the owner of Savoy Liquors and Paint City, which faces Louis Botha Avenue, said it would kill his business. “They’re proposing to gate off two streets leading into the business area,” he said. “How dare they! It’s not constitutional to block me off. I run a convenience store and depend on passing trade. It’s my livelihood and I have been here for 32 years.”

Backos has vowed to continue to fight against the enclosure. “What I have to do, I will,” he said. He’s demanding written proof of the approval from the JRA.

Though the Savoy-Waverley Estate might be one of the first of such schemes, it won’t be the last. “Suburbs like Sydenham, Sandringham, Glenhazel, Oaklands, and Orchards are also investigating suburb enclosures,” Jammy said.

“No-one wants to be putting up gates, but if you’re staying in Johannesburg, you have to invest in security,” he said. “We implore everyone to contribute. Though we’re commencing with the erection of the enclosure, we’re not at the fundraising target yet.”

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  1. D Even-Tov

    Sep 5, 2022 at 5:00 pm

    Please don’t leave out the residents of Highlands North Ext. We are suffering from the increase of vagrants in the area. Increase of crime in the area.

  2. Chris

    Dec 17, 2022 at 4:47 pm

    This enclosure was illegally pushed through without properly consulting ALL of the affected stakeholders!
    Why weren’t easily legible signs erected warning road users of the intention to shut down access to 4 major thoroughfares, a public park, a shopping district and worst of all a public library?
    This smacks of underhanded tactics! Shame on those behind this blatant land grab!

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