Durban – The constitutionally enshrined right to life is being enjoyed by criminals instead of the law-abiding citizens of South Africa.This is the view of Asad Patel, who holds top positions in various community safety structures in KwaZulu-Natal, particularly in Westville, a suburb west of Durban, where he is from. "Criminals who have a weapon and indulge in violence must be dealt with appropriately. Furthermore, government should listen to the citizens who want the death penalty brought back as this was a severe deterrent," said Patel. The 44-year-old who works at Tyson Properties Westville and Destiny Tiles has taken it upon himself to protect the rights of vulnerable residents from everyday crime in KwaZulu-Natal. He is the vice-chairperson of the Westville community policing forum, chairperson of the Westville Anti-Land Invasion Committee, chairperson of Abantu Abahlangene Against Crime and executive committee member of the Ethekwini Secure Neighbourhood Watch, among others. The father of five said he chose to protect the residents, particularly those from Westville, "free of charge" because he has lived in the area for the past 16 years.More than 1 000 neighbourhood patrollersPatel said crime in the country had "become a way of life". "It has affected myself, family and friends. I decided the best way to deal with crime is to actively work with law enforcement agencies, the community and neighbourhood watches," he said, adding that he had been part of the community structures for three years. Patel said there were major programmes in place at Westville to make sure that residents in the area enjoyed their human rights to the fullest without worrying about crime. "We have over 1 000 neighbourhood watch patrollers who sacrifice their time and resources to patrol their own neighbourhoods as a preventative measure against crime," he said. Patel also attends weekly meetings with SAPS and metro police to check hot spots, levels of incidents and "demand resources and patrols". "We work closely with community members to assist on tips to reduce crime and grime, as grime often leads to more crime. We also ensure roadside assistance is provided speedily to broken down vehicles on our roads to minimise their risk to criminal elements," he said.He said the high crime rate also deprived citizens of various other important rights, including the right to education. "When incidents do occur, the loss of life or injuries and trauma and material loss is ignored by government. The loss to the community and the country of highly educated and experienced citizens is not even thought of. Further, the loss of investment in neighbourhoods with high crime is unnoticed by government. This in turn leads to more unemployment and hence more crime," he said.'Brazen thugs'He added that with land invasions on the increase in suburbs around Durban, "the rights of the tax and rate-paying citizens is ignored". Patel said a recent robbery at a Westville home had robbed an elderly woman of her right to life. "Thursday night saw a house robbery go violent when the home owner heroically fought off the assailants but was shot in the process and also had his mother-in-law shot dead. There is a significant amount of outrage as an unarmed and an elderly member of our community was gunned down by trigger happy and brazen thugs," he said. News24 reported last Friday how businessman Imraan Randeree of Randeree Jewellers survived the Thursday shooting at his Westville home, but his mother-in-law Rookaya Dhooma died on the scene after two intruders shot them during the robbery at about 21:30. Shots were fired as they tried to protect the rest of the family from the armed robbers. He advised citizens of the country to unite and form street groups and neighbourhood watches in order to protect their rights from criminals. "Get to know the police, neighbours and security companies in your area. The idea is to take control of your neighbourhood and assist each other," he said. Patel says he does not take photos for "religious reasons and my own safety".