Watch woman honoured

Vodacom sales manager Samantha Green, Lindy Rich and the City's policing director Robbie Roberts.

In 2013, spurred by a house robbery and an increase in crime, residents started the Welcome Glen Neighbourhood Watch. It has grown and is now in constant communication with other watches in the surrounds.

This year, one of its founder members, Lindy Rich, has been awarded the Innovation Prize by the City of Cape Town for her involvement in the roll-out of the watch’s CCTV system.

She was elected to speak on behalf of the watches but stressed that the growing success is a team effort.

“Regarding the awards, I believe that every member of the neighbourhood watches contributed positively to the award along with other residents who all have one goal in mind – and that is making the community safer and crime- free for all of us,” Ms Rich said.

Ms Rich, who has lived in Welcome Glen for 21 years, described how Welcome Glen Neighbourhood Watch came about.

“A neighbourhood watch was started about nine years ago by Aliet Ray. This watch was not active at all, so following a few incidents of crime as well as a house robbery, Jared Chater, also a resident of Welcome Glen, approached my husband and I about starting an active, patrolling neighbourhood watch in February 2013,” she said.

“The watch then became active with existing members and new members patrolling with Jared as co-ordinator, and me assisting him.”>

The patrolling was extremely successful and crime was reduced to virtually nil.

“We got to know our neighbours and have formed a close-knit community; and met some wonderful residents who we would never have met had it not been for the neighbourhood watch,” Ms Rich said.

The watch then decided that they needed security cameras at each entrance to Welcome Glen and began raising funds for them in February 2014.

“We needed to raise approximately R20 000 for the two cameras and the City would then put the main sub-structure up,” she said.

They held raffles, a potjiekos competition, open gardens and markets at Hotel Glencairn.

“The community put their all into supporting us with donations as well and we raised this amount. Hotel Glencairn have really opened their venue to the neighbourhood watches and a big thank you goes to them as well,” she said.

With the money raised, the watch stumbled across a setback: the City did not have the funds to help. “When chatting with Eileen Heywood from Glencairn Neighbourhood Watch, we realised we would need to make this a Valley fund-raiser and incorporate the four watches in the area, ie. Welcome Glen, Glencairn Heights, Glencairn and Old Glencairn. We did this by a fundraising auction which was a huge success and raised approximately R95 000,” Ms Rich said.

The auction was made successful through donations from residents in all the watches, in the form of items for auction, sourcing sponsors for weekends away, fishing trips, CMR (??) membership, horse-riding vouchers, wine tours, hairdressing vouchers, jewellery vouchers etc and of course the support of all the residents at the auction itself, she said.

The cameras are not set up yet, but will be in place before Christmas.

She said the they are number plate recognition cameras and any vehicle entering the area, that has been flagged on the system or involved in criminal activity, will result in the neighbourhood watches being informed.

The watches’ biggest challenges are to encourage more residents to join for more active patrolling, all hours of day and night.

“Unfortunately when there is no crime, residents become complacent. We do have a community WhatsApp group for issues like electricity and water outages, lost dogs and cats and general information but also have a lot of residents on our Eyes and Ears WhatsApp group, who report any suspicious activity,” she said.

They also have an Emergency Group, for rapid response to actual incidents.

“Being surrounded by mountains, we have a number of footpaths into the village which we hope to eventually have covered by cameras as well, to prevent any unwanted activity.”

The watches have set up a Mountain Safety WhatsApp group for residents making use of mountains to warn of incidents. Mr Chater set up the Redhill Crime Stop Facebook group, and any incidents are reported there.

The watches are having a carols in the park evening on Tuesday December 20, at 6.30pm, and residents are invited to take musical instruments and a picnic.

“This is one of a few community get-togethers we have had, along with a Halloween event and Easter egg hunt in the park, all of which contribute to a caring community and knowing your neighbour,” Ms Rich said.

“The Glencairn Neighbourhood Watch was formed about a year ago so we included Glencairn into our patrols. They are now an active watch with their own patrollers. We have an excellent working relationship with Glencairn Heights as well and liaise via WhatsApp with regards to criminal activity in the area.

“We also hope to join in with Glencairn Heights with their fund-raising for a radio repeater in the Valley,” Ms Rich said.

Following the devastating fires in the area recently, they have set up a Firewatch WhatsApp group where up-to-date information can be shared about fires in the Simon’s Town area; and patrollers are encouraged to report issues such as overgrown properties and leaking hydrants to the fire department.

“One of our members is currently working on an evacuation plan for elderly and infirm – along with animals – in the event of a disaster in the area,” she said.

“Disaster Risk Management Fish Hoek, along with Simon’s Town Fire Department has been supportive in arranging a fire demonstration and lecture on fire prevention and assistance needed from watches in event of fires; and have, and continue to, offer valuable advice.”

Ms Rich was voted onto the community police forum at beginning of November and after Mr Chater resigned as co-ordinator of the Welcome Glen Neighbourhood Watch due to work commitments, Ms Rich took over his role.

“We are lucky enough to have an excellent working relationship with the Simon’s Town SAPS who have supported us in every way,” Ms Rich said.

Warrant Officer Cassie Carstens of SAPS Simon’s Town said he can clearly see the effect neighbourhood watches have. “There is always a drop in crime in areas where a neighbourhood watch is operating,” he said.

“The watches are our eyes and ears and I am happy to say in Simon’s Town nearly every suburb has its own, and the combined effect of that is also very good. When people work together and are vigilant then crime doesn’t stand a chance,” he said.