Facebook page tracks criminals and crimes around Midlands

2011-07-22 00:00

A YOUNG crime-fighting woman from Hilton has armed herself with Facebook to create safer communities.

She started a Facebook profile — Pietermaritzburg-Hilton Howick Crime Spotter — at the beginning of June and has more than 1 400 friends already and another 400 friend requests. “This thing has gone crazy,” she said.

She asked to remain nameless because she regards this as a community project that people will take more seriously without a figure-head.

She launched the social networking weapon because “everyone’s been a victim of crime”, and people seldom know what is happening in their neighbourhoods.

She also experienced crime “a few years ago”.

At the age of 16 she was alone at home during the school holidays. The alarm sounded and she went downstairs to investigate.

Brave or foolhardy, she grabbed her father’s antique crossbow, without any arrows, and startled an intruder who had been “camping out” in a store room.

“He took one look at the crossbow and ran”. By the time she was upstairs again, the security companies had arrived.

With less direct confrontation, Crime Spotter “is about creating awareness”, helping each other and giving the police “a bit of a wake-up call”.

Since Monday Crime Spotter has, through its Facebook friends, posted information about nine crimes, including car thefts and burglaries.

Six of those crimes in Pelham, Prestbury, Scottsville, Hayfields and Lincoln Meade were confirmed by provincial police spokesperson Thulani Zwane.

Three car thefts, which allegedly happened late on Wednesday in Scottsville’s Riverton Road, had not been reported to the police, Zwane said.

Crime Spotter’s aim is to get the community talking, sharing safety tips and alerting others to “suspicious” vehicles and behaviour by listing registration numbers, areas the cars were seen in and, if possible, descriptions of the occupants.

Last week a red VW Golf was recovered and Crime Spotter thanked users for their vigilance and communication in getting it back.

This is about “the whole community working together”, the anonymous crime-fighter said.

Some members of the police and private security firms are in their personal capacity friends with Crime Spotter. They often help by sharing information.

Kerry Myburgh, a user of Crime Spotter, said the “site encourages us to go back and use our cavemen genes” to revert to being a pack ensuring its survival.

Tracey Bunn-Millin said “it is a brilliant site” and has helped her to be more vigilant.

The Facebook crime-fighter hopes that with enough awareness among citizens the message to criminals will be clear, “Move on. Get out of our town, we don’t want you here.”

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