Standing up to crime

2014-03-04 00:00

WHEN robbers struck at the Umhlanga home of businessman Craig Browing late last year, his neighbourhood was in the middle of an unprecedented crime wave.

The Upper uMhlanga Neighbourhood Security Trust was formed and Browing and other homeowners decided that to sit back and not react to crime was placing them in a vulnerable position. Andrew Fraser, chairperson of the trust, said they decided to gather data, set up a WhatsApp group and form relationships with the Durban North police station, eThekwini Municipality and the uMhlanga Urban Improvement Precinct.

Then they involved two security companies who put up eight guard houses and cameras to watch over Umhlanga Rocks Drive, Hawaan Estate and Harewood Drive.

In a few months, crime levels have dropped.

Browing, who works from home, said in November he was accosted by armed balaclava-clad men who robbed him of valuables worth R180 000, including cash. He was with his wife Debbie.

“I was in my office and my helper was cleaning the patio. I heard my wife screaming and on investigating one man put a gun to my neck. My wife managed to jump over the fence and into the neighbour’s property. There were three men in the house, all carrying guns while a fourth was standing at the door carrying an R1 rifle.”

He said a fifth robber was in a white BMW parked outside his gate.

He said one man pinned his domestic worker to the couch while the other two took him to his bedroom and forced him to open the safe. “They were violent. When my wife made her escape one of the men shouted ‘shoot the b****h’, but no shots were fired. They took my two firearms, cash, jewellery, and watches.”

Soon after the incident and others, the trust was formed. They currently have 775 homeowners as members. Fraser said they have had various crime incidents, from men pulling off the gates, to others cutting fences to gain entry to homes in the area.

He said most of the crimes happened in the early hours of the morning. “All along we’ve been reacting to crime and once reported, guards responded to incidents. Crime in our area had spiralled out of control. The trustees realised that if we mended these relationships, the communication between the community and key stakeholders would improve and so would the crime situation,” said Fraser.

Security companies were consulted to discuss a working solution to the scourge of crime in the area.

“We told these companies we didn’t want reactive services, but proactive services. Our aim is to prevent crimes from happening. Two companies bought into our idea. We now have 24 hour security with eight guard houses and cameras in strategic points.

“The Durban North police and the security companies sweep the Hawaan Forest, bushy areas and get rid of vagrants and other unwanted criminal elements in the area,” he said. He said the forest, which is near the M4, is where the loot is kept while the robbers wait for their getaway cars. Browing said they had seen a steady decline in house break-ins and robberies since this initiative kicked in. His wife Debbie is still traumatised by the robbery. “It was too quick, too scary and it is one moment I don’t wish to experience in my life,” she said.

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