IF YOU’VE noticed a group of people walking around the streets of Wynberg, laughing and chatting, you’d be forgiven for thinking Walk for Life has moved its starting time from 5 pm to a late-night hour.
But no, what you saw would probably have been Wynberg’s first street committee on its regular patrol, looking deceptively festive as they carefully comb the streets of our suburb to make sure no bins have been put out too early and no shady characters up to no good are lurking around.
Meet the pioneers of the Wynberg Sector 1 Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) . . . .
The boundaries of Sector 1 are the railway line, Waterbury Rd, Constantia Rd, Bower Rd, Waterloo Rd, Carr Hill Rd, Aliwal Rd and Riverstone/Wetton Rd. You will notice that these boundaries do not include all of the WRRA and also includes parts that fall outside the WRRA boundries. More about that later.
The Fleming Road Street Committee has been active even before the NHW was formally inaugurated in December 2014, and is being developed to serve as a template for other street committees in our suburb, explains Langley Road resident Nancy Krisch, one of the driving forces behind the Sector 1 NHW.
What does a street committee do?
Eventually, each street committees can develop its own way of operating, but the following has worked very well for the Fleming Zone Street committee, which patrols not only Fleming Road, but a number of streets in the area:
1 A WhatsApp group for neighbours. The group is used to inform other members of troubling sightings such as suspicious people circling the area, car tampering, suspected drug deals, etc. “Invariably someone will go out and have a look and if truly suspicious, the SAPS roving vehicle will be alerted,” Eugene Dreyer, also of the NHW, explains.
2 A closed Facebook group for Sector 1 residents that serves as a crime and safety alert forum. This group is available to everyone living in Sector 1, whether they’ve signed up to the NHW or not.
3 Neighbours also have one another’s telephone numbers so a neighbour can be called in the case of an emergency, whether it is burglary or a heart attack.
4 Regular rounds by a group of members walking together. In March interested NHW members will be trained by the City and SAPS in patrolling and equipped with radios. After this the number and frequency of patrol groups will increase, patrols will become smaller and they will travel by car.
5 Street committee communications, whether by physical meetings or via WhatsApp.
6 Regular get-togethers in the form of a street braai to help ensure that neighbours get to know one another.
“One of the fringe benefits of the effort has been getting to know our neighbours,” Nancy says. “People know that others are looking out for them and are readily available to respond, making them less fearful about being alone.”
How does the Neighbourhood Watch work?
In full operation, the NHW will consist of various street committees that will be divided into seven zones under the umbrella NHW. This body will coordinate community safety in Wynberg Sector 1, have regular meetings with Wynberg SAPS and cooperate with other similar bodies in the area. When enough funds have been raised, the Sector 1 NHW hopes to join up with the Constantia Valley security effort, a sophisticated outfit with CCTV cameras, guards and a control room. A number of the suburbs surrounding Wynberg are already on board. In these suburbs, crime has decreased dramatically.
What does the NHW need to function optimally?
“We need residents who are willing to commit a little bit of their time,” says Eugene. “You can commit as much time as you want. You can sign up with a street committee – physical and/or virtual – and/or you can patrol the streets.
“After training we aim to introduce car patrols, although each zone within sector 1 can decide how they prefer to function.”
If you want to add foot patrols, Nancy and Eugene recommend patrols consisting of about 10 members who are organised and wear reflective vests. SAPS also recommends that anything that could be regarded as a weapon should best be left at home so as not alienate legitimate pedestrians.
How to join the NHW
The NHW Executive Committee consists of Eugene Dreyer & Nancy Krisch (co-chairpersons), Ian Doxey & Julian Emdon. They will assist residents in setting up WhatsApp groups and virtual as well as physical street committees. You can also contact them should you want to join the training in March. Send and email to email@example.com. There is no membership fee.
“We recently received a WhatsApp message from a resident saying ‘some strange guys are tampering with my neighbours gate’. A neighbour who picked up the message went outside to investigate and drove them away,” Nancy says. “It is very reassuring to know that it’s not just your eyes keeping watch, but many more.”
THE NHW 5 TOP SAFETY TIPS
* Don’t put your bin out the night before. Not only does it provide a handy step for people to climb over fences, it is also an incentive to come into the neighbourhood. While many vagrants going through the bins are legitimate, some are not.
* Immediately report suspicious people to the roving Sector 1 police patrol van: 082-469-2713 or the ops room on 021-799-1492.
* Do not approach unfamiliar and suspicious people.; rather report them to the Sector 1 patrol van.
* If you see someone behaving suspiciously when you are about to drive into your driveway, drive around the block first until they’ve left. Alert the sector van if you are worried.
* Know your neighbours and the people who are supposed to be in your area.
MORE INFO: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taming the taxis