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Neighbourhood watches empower citizens to combat crime

Written by: Dale Hes

Want a safer community? Neighbourhood watches take responsibility for their security by working closely with the police to prevent and combat crime.Accredited neighbourhood watches receive a certificate and equipment from the Department of Community Safety.

Members of the public do not have to feel powerless in the face of crime. In South Africa, neighbourhood watch groups comprising local residents are playing an important role in preventing crime, working hand-in-hand with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and security companies.

In the Western Cape, more than 300 neighbourhood watch groups have been formally accredited under the Neighbourhood Watch Accreditation and Support Programme, which started in 2016. The programme empowers everyday citizens to prevent and respond to crime and violence in their communities.

“Neighbourhood watches are the eyes and ears of the police; they know what is happening on the ground before the police do,” explained Ishaam Davids, spokesperson for the Western Cape Department of Community Safety.  

He said offenders will more than likely be deterred if they are aware that local residents are on the alert and ready to report suspicious behaviour.

Members of a neighbourhood watch that is accredited by the department undergo a two-day training course that includes information about legal rights, patrolling, communication with crime-fighting authorities and how to run the organisation efficiently. They also receive a starter kit with equipment such as reflective vests, torches, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, safety whistles, vehicle decals and strobe lights for cars.

In the northern suburbs of Cape Town, the Amandel and Surrounds Crime Watch (ASCW) has 26 members who patrol areas in Kuils River.

“We encourage all South Africans to join their local neighbourhood watch and start taking responsibility for community safety – the police don’t have the manpower to do everything,” said ASCW chairperson Dr Jürgen Seifert.

The hard work and dedication of the Western Cape’s neighbourhood watches have paid off, with a 6.8 percent reduction in property-related crime last year.   

Did you know?

If you want to register a neighbourhood watch, contact your nearest police station or local Community Policing Forum to find out what steps you need to take.

Remember, to become a member of a neighbourhood watch, you will need to have SAPS clearance, which means your fingerprints will be taken to establish that you do not have a criminal record.