Stellenbosch no longer a safe place
As more students fall victim to violent crime, Stellenbosch seems to be more of a Hillbrow than a safe small town. Jeanette Potgieter and Anneli Muller investigates.

“STELLENBOSCH is not Hillbrow, but due to the high concentration of people, one would inevitably find more incidents of crime,” says one student. As an increased amount of students fall victim to violent crime practices, the issue of crime in Stellenbosch has come under close scrutiny.

Two students were seriously injured after an attack with a baseball bat in their student house, reported Die Matie (15 March). Also reported in the same edition of Die Matie, two other students were eating chips in the Neelsie when two men assaulted them. One student’s jaw was broken on two places. The other had a skull fracture, broken hand and had to receive stitches in his cheek.

Earlier this month student Kevin Dimont was attacked when he tried to stop two men from burgling his car. He managed to fend off one who threatened him with an ice pick. In a skirmish with the second burglar, armed with a knife, Dimont was cut once on the forearm and stabbed twice in the shoulder. “I lay there bleeding, until a friend came to my aid. He chased the two men away and phoned the police.” Fifteen minutes later Dimont was taken to the hospital, whilst the police had still not arrived. Dimont commented that, although the police did show up, no fingerprints were taken. The assailants have to date not been arrested.

Students as target group?
Capt Anton de Kock, head of communication at Stellenbosch Police Station, says from everyday discourse it seems as though we are experiencing an unexpected increase in serious crime. The increase in crime in residential areas surrounding the centre of town was expected, due to the fact that business guards currently patrol the centre of town. Thus it would be more accurate to refer to a “displacement” – rather than an increase – in crime, from the centre of town to areas falling outside the protection of the Business Guard.

This is probably the reason why a larger proportion of PSO students fall victim to criminal practices when compared to students in residences. As Frans Loots from Akkerhof flats comments: “Students have become a target group due to their laid-back nature.”

De Kock ascribes this to the sudden freedom experienced by students and the general mentality of “it won’t happen to me”. How-ever, he asserts that “crime is blind to colour, sex and age”.

The police and University of Stellenbosch Protection Services (USPS) aim at creating and maintaining a safe environment by means of various safety programmes, of which the best known is definitely the Green Route. According to USPS, the purpose of this route is to provide a well-lit and patrolled preference route for students, in order to reduce the possibility of an attack. “We do believe that we are achieving this goal,” says the USPS spokesperson.

But a female student disagrees: “Green Route guards are like the Phantom – if the reason you don’t see them is not a lack of proper lighting, it’s because they’re not there.”

Increase in crime?
“Students feel unsafe on campus, largely because of the alarming increase in crime,” says another female student. De Kock contradicts this statement by pointing out that it is an increase in awareness of crime and in the degree of violence, rather than an increase in crime itself. USPS statistics support De Kock’s theory by showing a large decrease in bicycle and car theft from last year. In this year’s first term, 37 bicycles were reported stolen compared to the 64 in the same time last year. Car theft also decreased from eight in last year’s first term to five this year.

Last weekend, fourteen cases of house burglaries were reported in the area, five of which were from farms. Six thefts, two each in Louw Street and Langenhoven Street, as well as one each from the Eikenwater and Hagerhof flats, and nineteen cases of theft from motor vehicles were also reported to the police. A car radio was also stolen at the Studentekerk parking area.

Cellphone theft is on the increase in Stellenbosch, as more and more students get connected. Cellphones were stolen from Huis Visser, Serruria and the JS Gericke library during the last few days. A cellphone and a wallet were stolen from Simonsberg residence as well.

Safety tips
USPS asks students to “always be wary, avoid potential dangers, make use of available assistance” like the Green Route and their toll free number. The police pleads with the student body for cooperation and to eliminate incidents similar to the one that occurred last week, where the tyres of the reaction unit vehicle were deflated and the registration plate stolen. Situations like these “could seriously affect the reaction time of the police” in cases where victims require immediate assistance.

Safety on campus, while being an important issue, “remains first and foremost one’s own responsibility,” De Kock concludes. “To expose oneself to potentially dangerous situations such as walking alone at night or through dim-lit areas and leaving doors and windows open are all factors that increase risk.”

Safer in a res?
After a man attemped to attack her with a bear bottle when she was jogging close to Coetzenberg, Antoinette Zietsman, fourth year student in Biokinetics, “didn’t feel safe anymore” in her flat where she stayed the last three years. “You don’t expect that in Stellenbosch!” When one of her neighbour’s video machines was stolen at 14:00 in the afternoon, it was the last straw. She decided to move to a residence – “a much safer environment”.


Male students in certain university residences are concerned about the embedded mentality of their fellow residents, as one student puts it, “They’ve done away with late lunches. And why? Because it always got stolen!”

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