IN THE FACE of a serious crime problem, residents of Oropune Gardens have decided to be proactive and to stand up against criminality. We laud their proactive attitude. It’s one that should be emulated. And authorities should take note.
Anyone would be disheartened to be caught up in a situation that seems intent on going from bad to worse. On Thursday, aspiring musician Calvin Straker was gunned down on outside Building 4A, Oropune Gardens. Just over a month ago, 18-year-old disc-jockey Kadeem “DJ Kiddo” Johnson was shot dead in the same area.
In addition to these tragedies, some residents have complained of being robbed near a walkover in the area. They say the walkover does not have adequate lighting. Others have spoken of being robbed at gunpoint in their homes. Residents have also highlighted issues such as flooding, indiscriminate garbage dumping, the need for recreational facilities and a community centre, and the need for better transport infrastructure.
Instead of throwing their arms up in despair, residents have mobilised in a peaceful and productive way. They have held community meetings, established networks within which to air and address grievances, drafted letters to key stakeholders and government agencies. They are intent on having their voices heard.
“Why should I now live in fear because of people who choose to not to obey the law and respect others?” one resident asked at a recent community event. “I for one will not sit by and just tolerate crime coming into my community and just watch gangs, individuals take it over.”
The energy and the activity belie the extent to which there is a problem in the community that needs to be addressed. It’s is a good way of addressing the fear that tends to grip communities caught within vicious cycles of criminality. This is something we need to see more of.
It’s very important for the State to take note of the concerns raised and to make a meaningful intervention. Equally, it’s important that residents maintain faith and continue to highlight and address their concerns to the appropriate authorities whoever they may be.
Several concerns have been directed to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in particular. These include serious questions about the illegal occupancy of HDC apartments; poor lighting in car parks, building staircases and causeways; poor road conditions; clearing of drains; and the clearing of overgrown bushes on empty lots. This is not what the residents of Oropune signed up for.
While the HDC is correct in saying that problems in the community require a multi-pronged approach, this is far from being enough. The agency must not underestimate its influential role as a key state body funded by taxpayers with the power to enforce rules within its premises to regulate the use of apartment units and to liaise with other relevant state bodies in dealing with problems that are within their remit.
For now, it is clear that the voices of Oropune residents have been raised. We should all be listening.