Neighbourhood watches back on the beat

District Six Neighbourhood Watch members doing volunteer work at an interfaith iftar last year.

Several neighbourhood watches have started street patrols again, after the easing of lockdown to level 3 allowed this.

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said the move would prevent crime.

“During the lockdown, we have seen an increase in vandalism of schools and shop robberies, in rural and urban communities alike,” he said.

The Sybrand Park watch had its first patrol on Monday June 1, and chairman Ebrahim Mohamed said the patrollers had worn masks and carried sanitisers.

Six of their 40 members patrolled at a time, supported by an armed-response firm.

Watch members had helped feeding schemes during the two months they had been unable to patrol, he said, but those two months had seen a spike in opportunistic crime.

Harlyn Neighbourhood Watch is also back on the beat, holding its first patrol – and an uneventful one at that, according to the watch – on Tuesday June 2.

“The guys are delighted to be back on the road again,” said chairman Derek Bluck.

Patrollers wore face masks, stayed in their vehicles and called armed response or the Claremont police if they saw trouble, he
said.

The watch has 116 patrollers who work in shifts. Ten of the watch’s patrollers have been working as Disaster Risk Management volunteers, helping with crowd control and physical distancing. Other members helped with feeding schemes.

The District Six Neighbourhood Watch is still waiting for a permit from the Department of Community Safety that will allow the newly accredited watch with 20 active patrollers to hit the streets.

Chairwoman Ursula Windsor said crime had gone up in the past two months, and it felt like they had to start all over again to help the police bring it down.

“Before lockdown, the crime was down, though now there have been opportunistic crimes like property break-ins and theft out of vehicles and vandalism of vehicles.”

A growing number of homeless people had moved onto the fields off Hanover Street, she said.

Some of the watch’s members also volunteered with Disaster Risk Management or helped at homeless shelters while unable to patrol.

Watches need to have a valid permit from the Department of Community Safety to patrol. Mr Fritz said permits were only issued to accredited watches.

“It should be noted that police have no competency to issue permits to neighbourhood watch members and should under no circumstances do so,” he said.

Watches with questions about the permits can email Neighbourhood.Watch@westerncape.gov.za