Poortjies Waterfront area of Keurbooms Lagoon.

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Poortjies Waterfront area of Keurbooms Lagoon.

The various beach access points to the Lagoon in Poortjies are extremely important for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that they are used daily by tourists visiting  Plettenberg Bay. The area is very popular and is used by all residents of Plettenberg Bay, local property owners as well as residents from surrounding suburbs.

However, over the past several months this beach/bush area has seen an influx of vagrants and so-called subsistence fishermen and women who sleep on the beach or in the thick bush.

Visitors to the beach are now being harassed by vagrants, resulting in many members of the public avoiding walking there at all. Beachgoers are being harassed for money by individuals posing as car guards. People walking their dogs, particularly women, are being pestered for money and being verbally abused if they refuse. Drug abuse is a likely reason for the activity, as is the rise in local opportunistic theft from houses close by.

Poortjies Lagoon beach is one of the few beaches left where residents can walk their dogs freely. Altercations between dogs and vagrants have already resulted in unpleasant situations.

In addition, vagrants set up temporary makeshift shelters most nights. Fires are being lit in the deep bush and litter and human waste are being left behind each morning. The fire hazard should be obvious to all.

There have been numerous requests to the municipality to attend to the matter, but no decisive action has been taken, even though we believe our ward councilor Dave Swart has appealed repeatedly for support to address the situation. On the odd occasion upon request by residents, law enforcement removes the vagrants. But every time, the vagrants return a few days later.

As such, many residents feel they are being held hostage in their own homes by a handful of aggressive bush-dwellers.

If left unchecked, this issue will eventually result in some affected property owners choosing to sell up and move, which will result in the devaluation of all the surrounding properties.

Similarly, if left unchecked this issue will affect tourist numbers, not just to Poortjies but the town as a whole. This town is dependent upon tourism for job creation.

Essentially, all we expect from the Council is the enforcement of current bylaws.

The bylaws are intended to protect all members of the public, but without enforcing them, they are useless. Ad-hoc removal of vagrants when residents call for help is unsustainable, ineffective and a waste of time and human resources for all parties involved. Vagrants simply return.

Law enforcement has more important work to do than to repeatedly remove vagrants. Do it once and do it effectively.

Presumably, the vagrants have come to the obvious conclusion that there are no legal consequences to their activity. Without consequences, all laws are meaningless.

Some residents have taken up patrols at night in the absence of law enforcement. Ratepayers cannot be expected to do this to protect their property rights. Sooner or later this will result in a situation that will see individuals being injured.

Some residents have suggested we burn or cut down the bush to ankle height and do our own sweep of the area to chase out vagrants. Not only is this illegal, but it will undermine the dune barrier between the water and the properties, and lead to extensive and expensive soil erosion repair of this natural barrier.

In conclusion:

This petition is intended to make the Plettenberg Bay mayor and law enforcement aware of the situation and the severity of the problem.

Unless this problem is addressed urgently by Council and resolved effectively, this problem will spiral out of control. All that is needed is enforcement of the bylaws.

It is also not difficult to see this ultimately resulting in local residents taking the law into their own hands to resolve the situation, which will undoubtedly result in legal problems for all parties involved.