Johannesburg – The Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) has launched a joint operation with the City’s Social Services department to get homeless people off the streets and into the City’s various shelters, says JMPD spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wayne Minaar.
“Due to the growing number of homeless people and the increasingly cold weather, the JMPD decided to embark on this operation,” Minaar said.
He said he could not confirm reports that JMPD officers had allegedly issued fines to homeless and displaced people after the City distanced itself from unconfirmed reports to this effect. “We would like to assure residents that this is not the position of the City. Where residents have information about such activities, we encourage them to contact us. The JMPD adopts a humane approach when dealing with displaced people,” the City said in a statement.
The City said although its by-laws prohibit loitering and unauthorised usage of public open spaces and other infrastructures, such as underneath bridges and pavements, those places have become the preferred shelter for homeless and displaced people.
“As the City, we work to ensure we strike a balance between ensuring laws are being upheld while also recognising the vulnerable position of homeless and displaced residents. Often, the JMPD will receive complaints to remove homeless people from private property such as shop fronts, pavements and even in front of people’s homes.”
The City said JMPD officers always attended to such calls by escorting the homeless from the site of a complaint and taking them to the nearest shelter.
At times, it added, it might become necessary for the JMPD to remove people from the side of the road or underneath bridges for their safety and that of motorists.