Neighbourhood watches and other such organisations are continually growing in popularity both in South Africa and globally, and have, over the decades, proven to be effective in reducing crime. Excellerate Security’s Commmunity Project Manager Nikki Möhlman is therefore appealing to more communities to follow suit and set up their own Neighbourhood Watches and community policing organisations.
“The idea behind such initiatives is that residents take more control over their neighbourhoods and look out for, and report suspicious activity. This active vigilance and surveillance deters criminals by decreasing the number of opportunities to commit crime.”
“Neighbourhood watches that work closely with the local police have an even greater impact on crime as crucial information can be exchanged and disseminated. Joint anti-crime operations can also be regularly carried out which not only serves as a deterrent but can also lead to the arrest of criminals.”
For these reasons Möhlman is encouraging communities to become more proactive in the fight against crime in their areas and make joints effort to set up formal structures to assist the local police and help keep each other safe. To start a Neighbourhood Watch, she advises the following:
- Contact your local police station, often the community liaison officer, and inform them that you are interested in setting up a Neighbourhood Watch. Discuss with them the prevalent crime issues in your area as well as any ideas you may have to address them.
- Contact your neighbours and tell them of your plans. Find out which are interested in taking active roles in the structure and which are willing to support or assist its initiatives or projects. This is best done door-to-door but be sure to not do so alone. Also bear in mind that people are more likely to open a door to a man and woman than two men.
- Using these door-to-door opportunities to discuss your neighbours’ concerns and ideas is a great way of instilling enthusiasm for the project. Remember to also record their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
- Set up an informal meeting or get-together with interested neighbours. At such a gathering it is a good idea is to set up a whatsapp group for residents to share information. However, those in charge of adding neighbours to the group need to be aware of who they are adding and ensure they are in fact neighbours. If criminal elements are able to access your group communication this could thwart any or all crime-fighting projects or initiatives.
- At this meeting it is advised that you elect a chairperson or representative. Other committee members can also be elected. Discussing concerns is also encouraged, although do not worry about going into too much analysis and planning as this is best left for the initial meeting with the local SAPS.
- If your suburb has a Community Policing Forum (CPF) it is vital that you set up a meeting with the chairperson or representative and introduce your Neighbourhood Watch to it. Ensure you establish communication links and work with your CPF by attending meetings and assisting to disseminate information relevant to your neighbourhood. All Neighbourhood Watches must fall under the local CPF as this is the only structure recognised by the SAPS.
- Once the Neighbourhood Watch project or committee is set up, the chairperson or representative should make contact with the local SAPS, again via the community liaison officer, and inform them of the Neighbourhood Watch Structure. It is also advised to then organise a meeting for both the Neighbourhood Watch members and members of the local SAPS. Representatives of the local CPF can also attend the meeting, if they wish to.