Ridding streets of crime

2015-11-17 06:00

AS escalated levels of crime in the communities call for more involvement of residents, neighbourhood watches and Community Policing Forums (CPFs) have become popular organisations for people to join.

For, if residents start looking out for one another, as well as the safety and security interests of their communities, they can make their areas, and ultimately their homes, safer places to live in.

Organised patrols, clearing of bush and other obscured – and potentially crime-breeding – areas, and reporting suspicious activities are among some of the most effective things residents can do to keep their communities safe.

But just how can neighbourhood watches, CPFs, or community members do this effectively?

Nico Potgieter, head of investigations at Enforce Security, provides some responses to commonly-asked questions:

1) How do I know if a person or vehicle is “suspicious”?

It is quite difficult to explain exactly what constitutes a suspicious person or vehicle as those of us with years of experience rely on a sixth sense to know when someone is up to no good.

For ordinary citizens it is important to get to know your neighbours and regular activities on your street. Know who lives and moves in your surroundings, what vehicles they drive, who visits them, and who is in the area legitimately. Only when you know these things will potential suspicious people or vehicles stand out to you.

Get to know who your neighbours’ domestic workers and gardeners are. If your area is not a thoroughfare and there is no need for unknown people to be ambling in the street then it is easier to identify possible suspicious people. It is also important to interpret their behaviour and body language as they could still be driving or walking in the area innocently.

But if, for example, you notice a vehicle just driving around without any purpose, perhaps its occupants appearing too interested in the homes, vehicles, and people around them, and you see it on more than one occasion in the same area, that could be considered suspicious.

Likewise, if you see the same people continually walking up and down the street, not appearing to be going anywhere, or not living or working in the area, then depending on their behaviour, they could also be suspicious.

Identifying suspicious people or vehicles in public places like parks, however, is a lot more difficult. But if you monitor them for a while and it seems like they are not there for any purpose, then you may perhaps feel they are suspicious.
You need to look at the entire scenario. For example, if you see a car of occupants sitting in a park with their windows up, not eating anything, or socialising, perhaps even watching the people and houses nearby, then alarm bells could possibly ring. Suspects looking to carry out hijackings or house burglaries or invasions will often be in groups larger than two as these crimes are not easily done alone or in pairs.

2) If I see a suspicious person or vehicle, what should I do?

You need to be observant and record as much detail as possible. Call the police or your security company immediately, but be sure to take note of details such as car registration numbers, makes and models of vehicles, and description of the people, such as what they are wearing or identifiable marks. Be able to describe exactly where this vehicle or person is. You do not need to explain why you feel they are suspicious. The police or security company need to check it out and then provide you with feedback. Do not try and interfere yourself.

If you come across a suspicious person in your street, you can ask them where they are going or what they are doing. If their story does not seem plausible or they tell you they are working for, or are family of, a neighbour and you know they are not, report it.

DO YOU HAVE A CRIME OR SECURITY QUESTION? DO YOU NEED ADVICE ON HOW TO KEEP YOUR FAMILY OR COMMUNITY SAFER? If you do, email Enforce Security’s experts at questions@enforce.co.za . - Supplied

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