Starting a neighbourhood watch - is it as simple as it seems?

2017-08-09 06:02
: Police spokesperson Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg.Photo: cara-lee dorfling

: Police spokesperson Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg.Photo: cara-lee dorfling

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WITH crime an everyday part of our lives, residents are now taking back their streets by forming neighbourhood watches.

With the same goal in mind, a vision of a crime-free community and unity among neighbours, the initiative is about the decision to take some level of responsibility – but is it as simple at it seems?

According to police spokesperson Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg, there is protocol that needs to be followed in order for a community to start a neighbourhood watch.

“There are structured organisations in place and the community needs to work with them,” she said.

Speaking to PE Express Warrant Officer Marcus du Plessis explained the process entailed in order to start a watch.

“First and foremost the group needs to affiliate themselves with a sector community forum. They cannot operate a neighbourhood watch on their own.

“Every police station has got sectors and every sector has a crime community policing forum. The residents must contact their police stations and find out who the sector commander in that area is,” he said.

He added that as soon as the affiliation process is sorted, it is thereafter that the paperwork procedure begins.

“The resident candidates then submit their names for a clearance screening – meaning their fingerprints are taken.”

Du Plessis said this is of outmost importance as a person with a criminal record does not qualify to be part of a neighbourhood watch.

“That is why even after the names have passed the clearance procedure, they are still put before the community.”

He explained that every first Wednesday of the month there is a sector community forum meeting. “When we have those meetings the names that have been cleared are put out to the community and they then decide whether the candidates are eligible to be part of the watch, and even after that the chairperson of that sector will then take the names to the community policing forum and they will have the final decision.”

Once the neighbourhood watch has been officially registered, they then get branded bibs, appointment certificates from the police and they also get branded magnet stickers to mark their vehicles, “Because visibility is key,” he said.

Captain Janse van Rensburg said, “In as much as we support and appreciate residents serving as extra ‘eyes and ears’, they can’t just do their own thing.

“Proper procedures need to be followed or else the watch will not be recognised under the police force and will, therefore, be considered illegal,” she said.

She added that they are constantly trying to create awareness within the schools.

“The pupils need to be cautious when walking to and from school because generally they are the soft targets.

“Often you find them walking around with headphones in their ears, messaging on their tablets and by doing so they attract the criminals.”

She also urged motorists to be vigilant at all times especially at intersections as those tend to be the hotspots.

“If you are in your car, lock your doors, close your windows and be aware of your surroundings.

“If you see suspicious activity, report it to the police. We will send a vehicle through to come and check things out.”

She concluded that they do not advocate watch members taking any action when observing suspicious activity in their neighbourhood.

“Trained law enforcement officers should be the only ones ever to take action.”

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