Revealed: How the cops tamed Hillbrow

Hillbrow on New Year’s eve is the stuff of journalist war stories.

Media contingents squeeze into armoured Nyala vehicles then under heavy police escort head into the flatlands of Hillbrow.

Fridges would fall from the high rises, bullets ping off the thick walls of the Nyala. The journalists weren’t allowed to leave the armoured car, during their tour of Johannesburg’s most notorious slum. Back then 19 murders on a weekend in downtown Hillbrow, wouldn’t even get the cops in a sweat.

an armoured ambulance just waiting for that call to head into the now tame Hillbrow.

Suddenly it all changed, those media jaunts on New Year’s eve became well… tame.

To damn tame in fact. Not a single kitchen implement thrown, no baptism of fire stories to be told around the braai on New Year’s day. None, “if it wasn’t for that inch of steel I wouldn’t be here” boasts.

What happened? Journalists scratched their heads. Criminologists mumbled something about changing population dynamics. The police stared at the ceiling and said nothing.

Then yesterday a cop told me just why Hillbrow on New Year’s eve has become so quiet.

A day or two before New Year’s eve a police chopper does a fly past of all those high rise buildings. The ghetto bird buzzes the roof tops, looking for stockpiles of bricks, old washing machines, and maybe a fridge or two.

“They then tell the building owners to clean it up or else,” says the cop.

If on the night a single appliance falls from a building, the procedure is for the police to open fire with rubber bullets. “They aim for each window, smashing them,” explains the cop.

Smashed windows costs money.

And it has worked.

About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
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