Quiet streets and barking dogs

2008-02-04 00:00

It is a week since the Lincoln Meade neighbourhood watch team made their surprise apprehension of a suspected thief when I travel to join their evening patrol. As I enter the residential area, situated just above Hayfields, I come across a sign which reads: “Well done neighbourhood watch. One more arrest.”

Two new members are waiting at the meeting point where I am introduced to the team.

“We read in The Witness about how the neighbourhood watch arrested some thieves and decided it was time to join you guys,” the newcomers say. “But we want to check it out first, because we don’t want to be part of this if there is any form of vigilantism involved.”

Iain Roberts is quick to put them at ease. Pointing to another member handing out paint ball guns to team leaders, he says: “We have protection, but we are not out there to cause any harm.”

I join chairman Roberts’s team, which consists of Warren Schultz, Craig Jack and a minister, Byron de Klerk. It was their group that made the arrest the previous week and so we venture to the area where they surprised the robbers.

“We are out there to watch, not act,” Roberts whispers to me as we keep guard. “The decision to apprehend the suspects ourselves was risky, but we just didn’t want them to get away.”

Schultz looks at me. “Mr Witness,” he says. “You can write how the public doesn’t respond when dogs bark. Not one person came out to see what was happening the night we caught that robber.”

“Ja,” Roberts says quietly, “Byron, Craig and I found a place to watch from and we were getting comfortable, enjoying a bottle of beer and eating some biscuits. Then the dogs started barking and we looked up.

“Byron was the first to see them. He turned to us and said he thought he saw these guys walking in the distance and that one of them was carrying a TV on his head.”

De Klerk remembers: “Yes, and then as they got closer, Iain said: ‘Hey, what are you doing there?’ and they got a huge fright.”

“They did,” Roberts says. “They seriously didn’t expect us in a million years to be there. We had given them the fright of their lives and all three of them just bolted.

“Two jumped over the fence and ran in opposite directions and the third one was unlucky.

“We apprehended him and waited for the police to arrive.”

It is a quiet night for me. Dogs bark incessantly, but there are no reports of house break-ins or disturbances.

In a way, they want someone to be out there, so they can catch another robber, but the fact that there is no trouble means they are doing their job successfully.

As we return to the meeting spot, De Klerk turns to me: “The South African mentality is big dog, big gate and loud alarm — it doesn’t work.”

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