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Johann Kikillus, Social Transformation Forum, Ocean View

Today (November 3) some anonymous neighbourhood watch members came to see me about a challenge that they are facing.

Since March when the neighbourhood watches formed in Ocean View, they have been complaining that there is not enough police visibility. Some have been threatened by gangsters and have had rocks thrown at them.

The neighbourhood watches took these matters up with the local police and Community Police Forum (CPF). I was at the meeting. Last month they realised that there is nothing that the local police could do so they requested, through the CPF, a meeting with the cluster commander General Peter Jacobs.

They had the meeting with General Jacobs on Tuesday (November 1), but say they left feeling very disappointed. They claim that General Jacobs told them that it was not his platform to address these matters but that they had to go back to the station commander.

This has frustrated the neighbourhood watches who feel that they have been let down by SAPS, the department of community safety (DOCS) and the CPF.

They told me that they are wondering whether it is worth continuing with the neighbourhood watch as it has become very difficult to operate without proper police back-up. They are irritated because they are told by the CPF, SAPS and DOCs that the job of the neighbourhood watches is only to be the eyes and ears, but when they fulfil this function and report something, nobody comes.

Their biggest concern is that the festive season is coming. During this period it becomes very dangerous to be on the streets at night. Already we are experiencing shootings almost every night and have had over 40 murders in the past year alone.

What are the neighbourhood watches – and the community – supposed to do?

* The Echo first sent this letter to the police for General Jacobs’ attention on November 4. We got a response saying: “Major General Jacobs has received your first e-mail and discussed the matter with the CPF chairperson of Ocean View, Cathy Cronje. Please liaise with Cathy Cronje.”

The Echo tried to contact the CPF for comment and they were willing to comment but we were unable to set up an interview.

* Ewald Botha, spokesperson for Dan Plato, MEC of Community Safety, responds:

The active citizens in the Neighbourhood Watches (NWs) are to be commended for working tirelessly to help keep themselves, and their neighbours, safe in Ocean View. It is correct that effective NWs need close working partnerships with all “safety partners” – SAPS in particular.

Unfortunately, the problems the community of Ocean View face are not unique in our province. Too many communities still face similar safety challenges on a daily basis. With increased threats to safety, as well as police officers and resources stretched thin, it may be hard to remember what an important role our neighbourhood watches play. During the Department of Community Safety’s recent Policing Needs and Priorities campaign, Mr Plato highlighted that increasing safety and our crime prevention initiatives therefore requires us to have a coordinated and integrated approach from all the different role-players. Emphasis is placed on cooperation, joint planning and implementation in an attempt to address the policing needs and priorities locally, as well as to influence the alignment of all safety resources to the policing needs and priorities in all areas.

The Department of Community Safety is a willing partner to any person or entity who wants to help improve the safety conditions in communities. The NWs are urged to contact the Department of Community Safety (DOCS) Neighbourhood
Watch Accreditation Desk, where staff members are able to assist NWs to prepare applications to become officially “accredited”. A crucial part of the “Application for Accreditation” process is the written backing of the NW, by both SAPS and the local Community Police Forum (CPF). Accredited NWs will then be encouraged to make urgent requests to SAPS, for a closer working relationship. The CPF should host this critically important conversation.

We believe safety is everyone’s responsibility and all the leaders of Ocean View, especially the ward councillors, are urged to unite, as “safety leaders”, and work to support the NWs in every possible way. Accredited NWs, backed by all the leaders and people of Ocean View, can expect a strong, healthy relationship with SAPS.

The objective of the Community Safety Act is clear: to build NW structures as capable partners within communities – to be able to work with CPFs, police and the Western Cape government to achieve our end goal – namely safe communities better together. The Safety Plan drawn up at the recent Policing Needs and Priorities workshop should act as a safety blueprint to help hold all the safety roleplayers accountable to one another and to the community. The relationship between safety stakeholders cannot deteriorate into a finger-pointing or blame-game but needs to be built on the mutual respect and trust that each entity or safety stakeholder is doing their best to improve the safety of their community. The CPF is urged to ensure this relationship improves.

Mr Plato has received the commitment from the provincial police commissioner that the 1324 new police
recruits the Western Cape will receive by March will be deployed to have a maximum impact through increased police visibility and support to precincts strengthening the police where they are needed the most in our communities. In the meantime, Mr Plato – as part of his oversight mandate over policing in the province – will also raise these concerns with the provincial leadership of SAPS.

* For more information and support, members of the NW are encouraged to contact the NW Accreditation Desk at 021 483 7813,