BBMs to fight crime

2014-01-20 00:00

IN recent months the fight against crime in KwaZulu-Natal has become increasingly driven by social media.

Throughout KZN, residents are making use of BlackBerry Messenger to spread word of robberies, car thefts, hijackings and other crimes taking place within communities.

Johannes Kruger of Howick is an ex-drug addict who stole from others to fund his habit.

He now runs the Pietermaritzburg/ Hilton SA Community Crime Watch BBM line.

He says it is his way of trying to repair the damage he did when he himself was stealing from others to buy the drugs his body craved.

“I decided I wanted to help people. It’s my chance to fix my life and help others.”

The unemployed Kruger now runs the crime watch BBM group, with no reward, other than that of knowing he’s doing his bit to help prevent crime.

“It’s important because those of us who work our butts off eight to five to bring in a salary and support our families, can have what we worked for taken away by criminals in one second. If I can get the information out, maybe I can get the criminals off the street.”

Kruger now has close to 1 150 members on the BBM crime line. He previously had even more members, but was forced to do a purge when he realised that there were criminals who had cottoned onto his BBM line. “I had someone sending information on to criminals. I would sometimes send an alert out that there are two suspicious-looking men walking in a particular road. As soon as it went out, they would go elsewhere. It makes the job harder.”

He stressed the necessity of immediacy when broadcasting criminal activity. “The sooner it is broadcast the better. If a burglary has taken place, get the information out. Maybe two streets down, someone saw something. It makes my work and the police’s job easier.”

Kruger wants more police, RTI and municipal traffic, fire brigade workers and paramedic members to register for the line as they can then assist with the response to incidents when they occur.

Kruger, while enjoying what he does, says the task can be arduous. “If I send out an alert about a robbery in progress, everyone wants to know the details and in the meanwhile I am trying to get the police and emergency services there. I need to give that crisis my full attention.”

His philosophy is that if 1 150 people can stand together and report crime and potential crime-related incidents, it can make a big difference. “The more members we have, the better.”

Ricky Jugree, who runs the Richmond crime watch BBM group, says that the initiative, which has some 1 400 members, has helped to crack various crime cases.

Jugree is a civic-minded man, who belongs to his local CPF. “I saw that this initiative was working in other areas, so I decided to get involved.”

His members come from Richmond, Underberg, Ixopo and surrounding areas.

Jugree works closely with the police, the local CPF, ambulance staff, security companies, the traffic department and all other services that assist the public.

“I offer this service free of charge at my own cost and use BBM, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. I have regular meetings with police and other role players to find out ways that I can assist the community. The community is more alert now and aware of what’s happening around them and much more prepared before a crime happens.”

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said police do not send out alerts on BBM “as there is rampant abuse on social networks and a great percentage of messages on the social networks are false or hoaxes”.

“The SAPS does have a Twitter account which we make use of. We also utilise the media as we find that there are more controls in place so there is very little chance for our messages to be manipulated or misrepresented.”

He urged members of the public to ensure they have emergency response numbers on hand so that they can access police, fire, ambulance immediately in case of emergencies. “If there is a small closed group that is using BBM to network or for crime alerts, and it is strictly managed, it can be useful. However, if you are not personally aware of who is on the network, then criminals can also utilise this mode of communication to assist them in planning their crimes,” said Naicker.

To join up

• Pietermaritzburg/Hilton SA Community Crime Watch 294F4B0B

079 804 7472

•Richmond Crime Watch

2AB5E97E

082 899 3874

@richmondcrime

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