The bust last week of an alleged heroin dealer at the upmarket Zimbali Wedge property by the Hawks Narcotics Enforcement Bureau has again raised concerns about safety inside KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast gated estates, reports North Coast Courier.
Following a tip-off that a man had been distributing heroin from a rented apartment in Zimbali Wedge, a 37-year-old man was found in possession of about R4-million worth of heroin, a variety of drug equipment and a large sum of cash. He had also been using additional properties for storage purposes, according to the Hawks.
Criminals have been known to rent properties within gated estates on a short-term basis using false names, with the purpose of dealing drugs or targeting other homes within the estates.
The recent bust has yet again sparked a heated debate among estate residents, not only because of the clear risks involved with short-term tenants, but also with what some claim is a false sense of security offered by the gated estate.
Last December, a 67-year-old Zimbali Estate resident suffered two heart attacks when he attempted to give chase after criminals who had broken into his son’s home.
There have been several known incidents in the past of criminals renting accommodation in order to burgle houses in estates.
In a survey by the North Coast Courier through social media, a number of property owners living within estates said they were against short-term letting.
Anne Viljoen suggested that as soon as you have short-term rentals taking place, you can watch the crime increase.
“No estate names mentioned but, homes are rented for a month and other homes are watched,” she said, suggesting that criminals may strike shortly after the property owners had left the premises. She added that she was aware of three instances where safes had been removed in broad daylight from homes within estates.
Erika Molver said it was a bad idea to allow short-term letting as the safety and security of the estates could become compromised. Kim Campher said she was concerned that those looking to rent short-term were not screened well enough prior to being allowed to rent.
Airbnb, a popular online site used to put future tenants in touch with property owners looking to rent out accommodation, has also been placed under the spotlight, with some people suggesting that the “dodgier” short-term tenants come through the site.
Hundreds of properties within North Coast estates are available for rent through Airbnb, with prices ranging from R800 to R24,000 per night.
An account can be created simply using an email address and a cell phone number, to which an activation code is sent. One is then able to contact the property owner directly through the built-in messaging system.
While some property owners advertising on Airbnb told the North Coast Courier they were worried about their properties being abused, others were of the opinion that the extra income was simply too good to be ignored.
Owner Louisa Smuts said although she realised there were risks involved, ample efforts were made to screen clients before a booking was approved.
“You have to understand, for many of us it is a means of earning an income. Without holidaymakers or tourists we, and the local economy, would lose out. Ballito remains a holiday destination which relies heavily on the funds generated by our guests. I am a pensioner and without this income, I would be forced to rely on my children for financial support. There is only so much we can do to check if our guests are who they say they are,” she said.
The man arrested in connection with the heroin bust appeared in the Umhlali Magistrates’ Court on Monday. He is in police custody until his next appearance on October 14 for a bail application hearing.