Kalk Bay business owners have given the area’s car guards an image make-over, which they hope will make the neighbourhood safer and more attractive to visitors.
The business people say they felt the pinch during roadworks on Main Road and now they’re trying to do everything they can to lure back those who stayed away from the area during the worst of the congestion.
One way they intend doing that, says Jack Cullinan, one of the business owners, is by formalising car guards in the area.
The move followed a meeting with the police and traffic authorities in the build-up to the festive season to map a plan for “a safer December”.
“I was nominated to co-ordinate on behalf of business what needed to be done. Simon Curtis (another business owner) and I took on the project,” said Mr Cullinan, adding that it had had the full support of the police, law enforcement and traffic department.
“Small businesses in Kalk Bay have taken a decision to make it a safer place to visit; we want everyone to relax and enjoy their experiences here,” he said.
Under the new plan, a WhatsApp group has been created, radios have been issued to security guards, a bank-employed guard has been posted at the ATMs and car guards have been vetted and issued with new bibs.
“These gentlemen will be wearing a red vest, an ID tag and they have all signed a code of conduct,” Mr Cullinan said.
The guards who sign the code promise to stay sober, not use or deal in drugs and keep themselves clean and presentable along with their patch and surrounds. They also commit to smiling and introducing themselves, helping each other and keeping bays for disabled motorists open.
Those behind the plan hope the days of dishevelled-looking car guards intimidating drivers and ushering them into illegal parking spots are over.
“The public is requested to only recognise these gentlemen as official and not to tip anyone else,” said Mr Cullinan. “We also request that visitors report parking attendants who are not adhering to the codes. This is an experiment in its early stages, and we would welcome comment from our visitors.”
Mr Cullinan said the guards were chosen by calling in the existing ones, many of whom had been in the area for more than five years, and putting the idea to them. Their response, he said, had been an overwhelming yes.
The guards were asked for their ID numbers so they could be vetted by the police, and they were issued with their new red vests after signing the code of conduct.
The business owners sponsored the 29 vests and manage the project as volunteers. “Our aim was simply to formalise them and streamline a system that improves the whole experience of visiting Kalk Bay,” Mr Cullinan said. “This, instead of having opportunists with mischievous intent.”
Bert Stafford, who is part of the small business association, added his voice to this point.
“We have no specific crime figures linked to car guards. While the regular guards do not cause problems, there are a small number that often upset visitors and residents,” he said.
“The bigger problem was the influx of people from outside the area over busy months into Clairvaux Road and the secondary streets about Main Road,” he said.
He claimed a local security firm had infiltrated an unruly group some months ago and confirmed that they had been dealing in drugs, damaging cars and threatening people.
Mr Cullinan said the guards with the red vests weren’t employed by anyone and “should be afforded the opportunity to meet, greet and park cars with no obligation to the public”.
Kante Morris is one of the new car guards, and he said he was happy with the vest he has been issued.
“These bibs must only be given to good people who are working to bring quality to Kalk Bay. Me, I have been here many years.
“I know the good people and the skelms. I know that if a skelm gets a vest, he will make things bad for all of us, because people trust us in the vests.
“Sometimes people on the outside look good, but inside,” he said, patting his heart, “they are broken.” “I don’t want those people who smoke drugs and drink to get these vests because people, they trust me, and I don’t want them to think I am the same as those, broken people.” He said the regular car guards know and trust one another and keep a look out for one another.
“People think this is a nothing job, but it’s not. See here, the foreigners, they leave everything with me,” he said. A group of tourists had indeed left their van open, bags inside, and left him the keys.
Another car guard, Eddy Ekwasa, said he had been in the area 10 years and had no complaints about the new system.
“It’s fair and its better that people know us now,” he said.