Community watch groups giving rise to vigilantes?

WITH the growing number of community watch Whatsapp groups on the rise, members of some communities have begun to run patrols in their areas and have sometimes embarked on campaigns to assist the police in pursuit of a criminal.

Although this is seen as an effort to improve the safety of these areas, some would say that these groups are now giving rise to vigilantes.

Many cases have been reported whereby residents have taken the law into their own hands and have engaged with criminals, resulting in charges being pressed against them once the criminal is arrested.

Walungisa Protection Services (WPS) owner Imraan Khan said that this isn’t really the case because there are dedicated and concerned residents who sacrifice their time for the safety of others.

“However, there are a handful of individuals who use the neighbourhood watch patrol to unleash the beast within.

“If there are any such individuals in any community watch group they need to be identified and removed,” said Khan.

He added that members of neighbourhood watch groups need to be vetted and must also sign a code of conduct and indemnity forms.

Sector 4 community watch group activist Suniel Beharie said that there are people who do feel like they are above the law and do unlawful acts but stressed that if groups are well-managed then this would not be tolerated. “We have forged a good relationship with the Mountain Rise Police Station and ever since our inception have been helping and been helped by them,” said Beharie.

He added that there will always be vigilante-type people because a lot of people feel as though the justice system has failed them.

Comment from the police was requested but none was forthcoming at the time of going to press.

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