Volunteer now officer of the law

2015-05-05 06:00

He can now write tickets, issue fines and legally make arrests while on patrol with the Lanroe Neighbourhood Watch.

As part of a reservist project launched by the City of Cape Town, Hylton Mitchell is officially a law enforcement auxillary officer.

After an intensive eight-week programme, Mitchell has full signing rights as an extension of the City’s law enforcement and traffic services divisions.

Mitchell says he got involved with the programme because of his role in the Lanroe Neighbourhood Watch.

“I signed up for the project as an extension of my neighbourhood watch and civic association community work. Also, I think it is important that we, as neighbourhood watch members, have more authority to address certain complaints,” he says.

Some of these issues are vagrants, dumping, noise complaints and traffic violations.

He explains that the course included extensive training on South African law and writing tickets to ensure they are binding.

The first intake of officers underwent training in the Criminal Procedure Act, human rights and other components applicable to their duties, at the Metro Police College in Observatory after-hours and over weekends.

“We were introduced to bylaw infringement and how to identify who victims and perpetrators are,” he says.

Mitchell says the job is strictly voluntary and that he signed up out of passion for his community.

“I have always been a community person and I am concerned about the area. I want to improve the conditions and see residents come together in an area where we can raise children and live,” he explains.

The programme was approved in October 2012. JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said in a statement in 2013 the programme was put together to boost operational capacity and secure more feet on the ground without a massive budgetary impact.

“The volunteer auxiliary officers are being recruited from neighbourhood watch structures across the city and will work a minimum of 16 hours a month, without compensation. They will be deployed under supervision of experienced law enforcement officers in accordance with the City’s needs, but will also patrol their own communities,” Smith said at the time.

Mitchell confirms that the class was tough and that many other students had fallen out along the way.

Those who completed the programme received a City staff number – allowing them to write tickets – and a reflector vest.

“The officers will also be trained in the use of firearms and, when declared competent, will be entitled to carry official firearms while on duty.”

Mitchell says the firearm section has not been completed yet.

In 2013 the first 16 officers signed their volunteer agreements and received their appointment certificates. Several other classes have also graduated since and have started with active patrols.

“We hope to grow our volunteer law enforcement component to 400 in the next two years to augment our policing efforts across the metropole, benefiting all of Cape Town’s residents,” Smith said.

Mitchell’s passion to see change has since been directed through his community work.

“I got involved with the Civic Association of Rondebosch East and the Lanroe Neighbourhood Watch as a way to get my views and ideas across,” he says.

He urges more neighbourhood watch members to sign up for the project and more actively contribute to crime fighting in their areas

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