Kloof: Back from the cliff-edge

2013-08-21 00:00

EARLIER this year, Kloof and surrounding areas were hit by a much-publicised crime wave: murders, home invasions, robbery and hijackings seemed to be the order of the day.

“People became really nervous, estate agents stopped selling overnight and a mass of people left the area,” says Corne Broodryk, chairperson of the Kloof Community Police Forum (KCPF).

But the local community decided enough was enough and they are now busy taking Kloof back from the criminals.

“It’s a small community and the crime had a galvanising effect,” says Sandra Wickee, secretary of the Keep Kloof Beautiful Association. “People are now far more aware of what’s going on.”

“The crime blitz was a wake-up call,” says Broodryk.

“We got really desperate about what to do.”

Once the SAPS authorities had made it clear they were unable to increase the police presence in the area Broodryk says it was obvious the solution to crime lay with the residents. “Out of desperation we decided to make a difference.”

The KCPF got moving with several projects: first came the cameras. “There are 32 000 people, 14 000 homes in Kloof and 11 entrances and exits,” says Broodryk. “We decided we wanted cameras there.”

KCPF formed a partnership with Enforce Security. “Now eight of those points are covered by cameras.” These are monitored every hour and a report issued every 24. “It’s the equivalent to that of a guard,” says Broodryk. “The real benefit is when something does happen, you can see it.”

Broodryk admits the cameras are not 100% effective. “The guys are avoiding the cameras, so we need more. We are looking at getting 30 to 60 cameras eventually. If 12 to 15 homes came in, it would be viable for you to have a camera in your road.”

Secondly, the KCPF instituted neighbourhood watches, dividing Kloof into seven sectors, each with a designated neighbourhood captain. “We are now looking at linking roads together. The primary object is to protect your home; the second layer is to protect your street. People need to get connected. If dogs bark, if there is a car in the road — react and report it.”

The third initiative Broodryk dubs the most successful: street patrols. “The SAPS has only two police cars; clearly they can’t be everywhere.” So citizens took to the streets with 50 volunteers driving shifts during the night. “They use their own cars displaying CPF signage. We are the eyes and ears for SAPS. Our role is crime prevention. We see something out of place, we call SAPS or a security company. If we call the police they respond in well under a minute.”

Another key element in the Kloof fight-back campaign is the involvement of SA CAN. “Everyone complains about the 10111 line,” says Broodryk. “We say call SA CAN, they will activate things quickly.”

SA CAN is a national organisation but its area of concentration is KwaZulu-Natal, says founding member Brian Jones, “It’s a community action network [hence the CAN] that has been going for 11 years. We are a communication hub and an emergency line. We handle everything from bees and snakes, to medical emergencies and murders in progress.”

SA CAN also operates the only medical helicopter in KZN, run in conjunction with ER24 and Halo Aviation. “The flights are paid for in advance, so you can use the service even if you have no medical aid.”

Jones was inspired to found SA CAN in 2003 following the murder of his friend Craig Ayliffe the previous year. “I was a police reservist in Hillcrest. We got a call to attend to a house robbery. My friend Craig got there first and he was shot dead — out of that was born SA CAN.

“We have a membership of 40 000 — of those 9 000 are in rural settlements and townships,” says Jones.

A free membership gains access to SA CAN’s National Community 911 Incident Management Centre (IMC) which connects to 84 safety and security organisations, including the police, medical emergency services, fire and rescue services plus private security companies. Subscriber members can access a variety of extra services, including a cellphone panic button. “If you press the panic button on your cell we can see where you are to within 200 to 300 metres,” says Jones.

SA CAN is also active on Facebook and YouTube and recently launched CNN — Community Network and News. “We give the police and the public a structural tool for information flow,” says Jones. “We put it out there and it’s credible. We are not trying to be police; we are not the police or a security company. Our aim is to stop crime before it occurs.”

Broken window theory suggests that creating a cleaner more attractive environment helps keep crime at bay. It first saw the light of day in a 1982 article in the Atlantic Monthly by social scientists James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. They used the example of a broken window to illustrate their thesis: a broken window left unrepaired sees vandals break a few more windows. “Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from takeout restaurants there.”

In this part of the world, they may take things a bit further, but the theory was an inspiration for Keep Kloof Beautiful (KKB), says Wickee. “We applied the theory. It’s a way of empowering the community.”

KKB’s most successful project so far has been the reclamation of the pedestrian walkway across the railway adjacent to the Kloof CBD. “It took four months to finish — everyone came on board,” says Wickee.

“We planted trees. Now it’s a community space again [one complete with a graffiti wall in a bid to harness the otherwise illegal talents of artists tempted by Kloof’s many inviting garden walls].”

KKB has since followed up by cleaning and planting the previously grass-infested road medians as well as sprucing up a parking area that had become a security risk. There are now plans to beautify the area around the Amafa-listed old town hall which has become a refuge for vagrants, while an adopt-a-spot campaign is well under way.

“KKB cares for the aesthetics — the litter, the graffiti, and the things that deplete your home’s value,” says Wickee. “We want Kloof to get back to that village atmosphere. If everybody cared for their bit of verge each day, and I don’t mean spending a lot of money — just cleaned it — the whole of Kloof would be transformed in a day.”

These community initiatives have already had an impact. Things have changed, says Captain Bheki Mpungose, who has been station commander at Kloof since 2008. “Back then the community was not as informed as it is now. Now the community is very supportive and always wants to know what’s going on.”

Mpungose says the SAPS is really benefiting from the support of the KCPF and SA CAN, which assist in connecting the police with the community. “With this assistance, we can be more effective. They help us in making arrests.

“When there’s been a crime, people contact SA CAN and their contact with us is quicker than with some of the security companies. They understand how it all works. They are very professional.

“They also help us with crime awareness. They are so good at getting the community together — right down to the domestic workers. If we need information circulated they can do it very quickly via their network.”

But no one is relaxing their vigilance. “Crime is not static and it’s never going to go away,” adds Broodryk, but things are improving.

“Estate agents are selling homes again.”

And the KCPF is getting busy with its next project. “We are setting out to build a new SAPS sub-station on land near the civic hall. We are looking to make a security hub.”

Crime has motivated a community to pull together and take Kloof back from the criminals, but for this to be an ongoing success, there has to be a total buy-in and an acceptance that the days of conventional policing are over. “The good old days have gone,” says Wickee, “we are going to have to get off our butts and do it ourselves.”

• Check out the websites: www.kloofcpf.co.za; www.keepkloofbeautiful.org.za; www.sacan.co.za

• feature1@witness.co.za

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