A stern warning to skelms

2014-07-09 00:00

A GROUP of beleaguered Midlands residents are banding together with a tough new approach to security, to take back their right to feel safe in their homes.

Their message to criminals is unapologetic: Take your dirty business elsewhere or face the consequences.

Brian Pitts-Moore, of the Winters­kloof Tactical Surveillance Unit, yesterday told The Witness that Winterskloof has opted to go it alone, rather than continue to band its security initiative with that of the greater Hilton area.

He said while the Bobbies on the Beat initiative had worked well for a time, support for the initiative had waned as crime levels receded. However, with a recent surge in home invasion-type robberies in Winterskloof, it became clear that tougher measures were needed.

“It’s not that there’s an increase in the number of incidents, but rather an increase in terms of violence associated with the attacks.”

He said following the attacks by the “balaclava gang”, several other gangs had emerged in their area.

“Some members have been let out of prison, and youth unemployment has also compounded the problem.”

Pitts-Moore said the message of reducing the risk of being caught by wearing a balaclava had got around among criminals. He said there had been five or six serious crime incidents in the area in the past few months, which were “getting everyone’s attention”.

The surveillance unit is training and recruiting mobile patrol units on the ground. These “operators”, armed with self-defence equipment, will operate both in uniform and undercover, using a high degree of intelligence-driven work to fight crime.

“Funds permitting, we are expecting to field up to 12 suitably equipped operators, some in a distinctive SWAT-type uniform and others under cover. They will be backed by suitable support vehicles, armed response teams, and the SAPS Dog Unit when required.”

Pitts-Moore said their primary function will be to identify people and vehicles with no legitimate purpose in the area and “to respond accordingly”.

“They will patrol vacant properties and other known access routes to flush criminals out and to raise their risk of being identified and apprehended.”

Pitts-Moore said the unit is being supported by a very effective resident and domestic worker communication system.

“Suspicious people and vehicles in the area will be tracked and reported to the SAPS for their immediate attention. The WTSU is a unique initiative and through it Winterskloof residents are determined to make a proactive and assertive stand to preserve safety and security in the valley. By working closely with the SAPS, other crime intelligence agencies and the resident workforce, the WTSU will give wanton criminals plenty to think about if they choose to continue targeting this area,” Pitts-Moore said.

He said all their operators are registered with the Private Security Industry Regulation Authority. “To the hoods, that are doing the crime here, they must get the message that they will get a slap if they keep doing it.”

Repeated attempts recently to get information and comment from the police regarding crime in the Hilton area have proved unsuccessful.

Asked for details on robbery and burglary incidents in Hilton in the last month, police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane replied, “Your enquiry amounts to crime statistics which is the prerogative of only the Minister of Police to release.”

Asked what local police were doing to combat crime in the area, he said they were conducting operations on a daily basis to prevent and fight crime. “There are visible policing members who are always deployed in the area.”

The Witness asked for details on a recent attack in Hilton, but there has been no response to the query.

Attempts to contact the head of the community policing forum in Hilton yesterday was unsuccessful.

• newsed@witness.co.za

Twitter @stephsaville

What can residents do?

The bottom line, said Pitts-Moore, was to get everyone in the area on board and to get them to participate in whatever way they can.

1. Contribute financially: It costs R250 per household per month; the more people get on board, the more guards can be hired.

2. Participate in the technology: Use the technology available and get connected to the scheme’s Whats­App group. “This will help a lot in terms of where and how we deploy people.”

3. Engage with your domestic workers: “Have conversations with them and get information on possible sources of stolen goods. They are targets of violence too.

“There are areas in Sweetwaters that are no-go areas, traditional back routes, that they are too scared to use because of the skelms and the rapes that happen there. We’ll patrol those areas too.”

4. To get involved in the crime-fighting initiative, e-mail Pitts-Moore on training@megamasters.co.za

What’s the rest of Hilton

doing to combat crime?

Residents’ apathy or acceptance of crime as a way of life is not going to help solve problems around the increased crime rate in Hilton.

That’s according to Dale van Ryne­veld of the Hilton Community Security initiative (HCSi), who expressed concern that too many people in their area are not buying into a community effort to fight crime.

Van Ryneveld said while Winters­kloof has opted to go it alone and adopt a more “in your face” approach to crime, Hilton was reviewing its current programme, which included the Bobbies on the Beat.

“It’s not as effective as it used to be. We’re looking at different options to reduce crime,” he said.

Van Ryneveld was unable to pinpoint what had led to the increase in robberies and crime in the area. “It’s hard to know why it’s occurring.”

He said he found it “amazing” that there was a lack of awareness of crime among residents.

“There is an apathy among a lot of the residents in supporting initiatives to prevent crime.” He said many residents still felt that crime wouldn’t happen to them. “Criminal elements become aware of this and realise that people have no security measures and become bolder.

“It’s very puzzling; we don’t have the support we should. We could introduce far more security measures if we had more support.”

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