Neighbourhood watches back on patrol

Members of the Fish Hoek Neighbourhood Watch in a picture taken a while back.

Local community police forums have welcomed the announcement that neighbourhood watches can patrol again under lockdown level 3, especially with crime increasing as lockdown restrictions were eased.

Deputy national commissioner for policing Lieutenant General Sehlahle Masemola made the announcement earlier this month.

Neighbourhood watch groups were not allowed to patrol during lockdown levels 4 and 5. Each member must now have a permit while patrolling.

In a statement, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said neighbourhood watches would help to prevent crime such as vandalism, which had increased during lockdown, and assist law enforcement in promoting lockdown regulations.

Mr Fritz said that his department, and not SAPS, was responsible for issuing permits and it would only do so for accredited watches.

However, Fish Hoek Community Police Forum chairman, Andre Blom, said all watches could patrol whether accredited with the Department of Community Safety or not. He referred to the 2010 uniform constitution for CPFs in the Western Cape, which says CPFs are accountable to SAPS and watches are members of CPFs.

“Neighbourhoodwatches must be members of a CPF to be recognised by SAPS,” he said.

Permits were issued by the CPF to watch coordinators who, in turn, issued their patrollers with permits. There was no need for the Department of Community Safety to issue such a permit, he said.

Mr Fritz’s spokeswoman, Cayla Murray, confirmed that, saying both CPFs and the department could issue permits.

But she said the department would only issue permits to watches it had accredited because the watches were directly accountable to the Community Safety MEC under Section 6 of the Western Cape Community Safety Act.

Eileen Heywood, chairperson of the Simon’s Town Community Police Forum, said watch members were thrilled to again be the eyes and ears of the community, and “that is the way it should be”.

She said while crime had dropped during the first weeks of lockdown, watch members had still monitored suspicious activity using the many cameras in the area and stayed in touch with SAPS using WhatsApp groups.

Crime was rising now that lockdown had eased and SAPS needed the extra help, she said.

“Patrollers are fully aware of the social distancing requirements and are taking every precaution to patrol responsibly. We are working with SAPS in terms of the
national regulations and we are accredited so all patrollers have been issued with permits,” she said.

Stella Elliott, chairperson of the Highway Mountainside Neighbourhood Watch, said patrollers were happy and in good spirits and although they are fully accredited, only a few watch members were patrolling at the moment.

“We are in the process of issuing permits for the patrollers who wished to patrol,” she said.

Fish Hoek police station commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jackie Johnson, confirmed there had been an increase in crime since the easing of lockdown and she welcomed help from the watches.

“They definitely assist SAPS in fighting crime by being our eyes and ears,” she said.

Muizenberg CPF communications officer and volunteer auxiliary law enforcement officer, Wayne Turner, said he was pleased that watch members were allowed to patrol again.

“Community policing in collaboration with SAPS, security companies, law enforcement and the Muizenberg Improvement District is the way forward to fight crime,” he said.

He said 20 patrollers were allowed out at a time according to lockdown regulations.

Muizenberg police station commander, Colonel Vassie Naidoo, said he too welcomed the announcement.

He confirmed that general crimes, especially theft of motor vehicles and theft out of a motor vehicle, had increased since the easing of lockdown. He urged the public to not leave valuables in their cars or boots.

Ocean View CPF chairperson Kathy Cronje said patrollers on the community’s streets had definitely reduced crime in recent weeks.

Robberies and burglaries had gone up during lockdown but had now dropped, she said.

Ocean View police spokesman, Sergeant Leon Fortuin confirmed that and said there had also been an increase in domestic violence, theft and shootings in Ocean View and the neighbourhood watch’s help was appreciated.