Watch equipment boost

2016-07-19 06:00
The City of Cape Town’s Neighbourhood Watch Programme handed over equipment. Three Neighbourhood Watches operating in the Manenberg took delivery of bicycles, jackets, whistles, radios PHOTO: Earl Haupt

The City of Cape Town’s Neighbourhood Watch Programme handed over equipment. Three Neighbourhood Watches operating in the Manenberg took delivery of bicycles, jackets, whistles, radios PHOTO: Earl Haupt

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Neighbourhood watches in Manenberg were given a boost on Wednesday 13 July when the City’s neighbourhood watch programme handed over equipment.

Three neighbourhood watches operating in Manenberg took delivery of bicycles, jackets, whistles and radios.

Shahied Francis, deputy chairperson of the Sherwood Park Neighbourhood Watch says the equipment handover to the community is one of the greatest things that the City have done for their organisation.

“Nowhere else (in the world) and only in South Africa – where this is being implemented in the Western Cape – (does) the city give bicycles, helmets, torches, whistles and jackets and it means a lot to people.”

JP Smith, the City’s mayco member for safety and security, says his constituency has invested heavily in neighbourhood watch programmes in order to deliver results in the poorer suburbs of Cape Town.

“Neighbourhood watches are a very powerful tool. Where the neighbourhood watch has mobilised in high numbers, they have had a meaningful and measurable impact on crime. That can also happen here, but unfortunately it is the leafy suburbs who have done the most with neighbourhood watch mobilisation and where the neighbourhood watch is best resourced.

“The City has to step into the gap where the neighbourhood watch cannot afford to buy their own equipment and whatever else we can do,” Smith says.

Francis adds the equipment they have received will go a long way in stemming the flow of crime which has had a firm grip over the Manenberg area.

“It is going to make our job easier because of the increase in visibility. The crime rate will drop. We started off a few months ago. We were only in the one street. I respect JP Smith, he is a very nice person because he is a person one can liaise with and he is a people’s person. We have tiffs here and there, but when we walk away we shake each other’s hand and give a smile to one another,” Francis says.

Smith maintained that their partnership with the CCTV cameras as well as training residents to become auxiliary members will further boost their ranks and that the City has held back funds for this to occur.

“We are actually holding back funds which would have gone for full-time staff deployment to redeploy for neighbourhood watches, because we think that it is more valuable to deploy an extra 20 neighbourhood watch members than hire one extra police officer. We are putting a lot more money in it and we believe that over time, we are going to become an important game changer,” Smith added.

According to Smith, neighbourhood watch membership numbers in the city have swelled from 18 000 in 2006 to just over 34 000 this year. 

The growth in neighbourhood watch numbers has brought with it a big crime fighting boost, Smith says.
“That is a big force for change. There are people leading by example and setting the benchmark for what you should be doing in your community, because the police are not going to do it by themselves. In the first year, 10 years ago, we started with R80 000.

“This year we will be spending R4.5m on neighbourhood watches. The CCTV and other allocations are coming on nicely. Ward councillors are taking out of their ward allocation budget and adding radios and equipment.”

Smith, who celebrated his birthday last week, was caught unaware when the group which gathered at the Druiwevlei Centre started singing the “Happy Birthday” song for him.

“Grateful to the members, it was a very nice birthday song they did for me and I totally did not expect it. The neighbourhood watch really are my favourite people,” he says.

“I sit all day and every day in meetings with people who complain, who are unhappy and are bitter. Mostly they have reason to complain. There are things that are wrong and they are legitimate complaints, but those meetings don’t really take you forward.

“When you work with people who are not complaining and are doing, then it is a very enjoyable experience. You really end up loving these people more than anything else.”

While he has a soft spot for neighbourhood watches, Smith says community policing forums (CPF) should not be taken for granted either, but that they tend to end up becoming political battlegrounds.

“Some CPFs are problem-solving orientated. They won’t sit there and complain, they will propose a solution,” he says.

“Others, not so much. Others are more belligerent; they are busy trying to score points. The CPFs are very political and you have a lot of wannabe politicians who are busy flexing their muscle to demonstrate their stuff – either within their parties or across party lines.It makes those discussions less valuable.

“Where we find where the real meat is, where I am investing my time and effort, is with the neighbourhood watches.”
Smith concludes: “Ten hours spent with a neighbourhood watch is more valuable than 100 hours spent with CPFs.”

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