Plans to launch D6 watch under way

The establishment of a District Six neighbourhood watch is under way after community members agreed last week to be part of a working committee to facilitate the process.

The Cape Town Central Community Police Forum (CPF) meeting, held on Wednesday August 16, at Holy Cross hall in Zonnebloem, was called specifically to get the ball rolling for a neighbourhood watch which would cover the entire District Six area.

It was attended by Cape Town Central police, members of the CPF, members of the Upper District Six Neighbourhood Watch, which only covers a small portion of the area, and ward councillor Brandon Golding.

And as an extra boost, ward councillors Mr Golding and Dave Bryant, whose ward also covers District Six, have also jointly allocated R200 000 for safety in the area, and R50 000 which will go towards equipment and the capacity of the neighbourhood watch when it has been registered.

Cape Town Central CPF chairwoman, Nicola Jowell, said that in the past, there had been many neighbourhood watches in the District Six area, but those had all somehow fallen off the radar.

She said while most areas which were covered by the Cape Town CPF, which includes Cape Town CBD, District Six, Gardens, Oranjezicht, Vredehoek, Tamboerskloof, Devil’s Peak and Bo-Kaap; have neighbourhood watches, the CPF was attempting to fill in the gaps.

“The CPF aims to have all the areas in its precinct covered by neighbourhood watches, and to get everyone talking to each other. There has been a lot of issues in District Six, and we would like to open the dialogue and give representatives for District Six a platform as well,” she said.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Golding, who had been CPF chairman before Ms Jowell took over, said at one point the CPF had been liaising with two entities in District Six, but that didn’t work well. “I spoke to Mr Bryant and we looked at a safety plan for the area, and having one safety entity in the area. When we looked at the safety spend, most of it went to District Six because it is most needed here. In the past few weeks, I have been spending a lot of time in District Six, and my biggest concern is all the open land and the homeless in the area. I do not want squatter camps in the area.

“We are trying to clean the area and remove them, but in a few days time they are back, so the City is looking at interventions and a permanent plan for these people.”

He said while they are trying to deal with the issue of homeless people from a social point of view, another concern is that criminals hide among the homeless.

He said neighbourhood watches are the eyes and ears for the police and the City. “Law Enforcement and SAPS can’t be everywhere. We need people who know their community and who know who belongs in the area and who doesn’t, to help us make the area safer for everyone. We need to close the gaps and create a vigilant community. We are asking you to tell us what goes on in your area, and to engage with SAPS.”

He said as a joint venture between himself and Mr Bryant, they had allocated R200 000 to the installation of a high mast camera at Russell Street, where the City is battling with people living under the bridge.

According to a resident at the meeting, there have been some robberies under the bridge. Another resident said District Six is bearing the brunt of gentrification in the CBD, as the homeless people come to their area when they are moved but still want to live near town.

She was concerned about the fact that the neighbourhood watch would not be armed. She said residents are unable to walk safely under the bridge because there are homeless people sleeping on the pavements.

Mr Golding responded by saying that this is why the CPF wants to facilitate the establishment of the neighbourhood watch, so that community members can engage with the City and the police. “This is the starting point, and we will try our best to assist you in any way we can.”

Ms Jowell said ultimately, she would like to see the District Six neighbourhood watch work with the rest of the neighbourhood watches in the precinct, because crime doesn’t have boundaries, and spills over to neighbouring communities.

She said the newly established Upper District Six neighbourhood watch had been doing good work in the area. “We see neighbours communicating with each other, people out and about, people engaging with us and their community. It is fantastic.”

She said one of the ideas is to have a District Six neighbourhood watch for the area, and then zones in which smaller groups would operate.

The spokesperson at Cape Town Central police station, Captain Ezra October, said while the Upper District Six neighbourhood watch does good work in the community, it is important to work together to fight crime. “We are talking to people at Springfield Terrace to get them involved too, and eventually we will create a wider network and come up with better strategies to fight crime. We must also be careful not to fade out. We have seen neighbourhood watches being started and everyone is excited, then everything comes to a halt.”

Anthea Bredenkamp of the Upper District Six Neighbourhood Watch welcomed the idea to start a bigger neighbourhood watch for the area.

She said they were forced to start in their immediate area because they did not receive buy-in from the rest of the community.

The boundaries for the watch are Russell, Keizersgracht and Chapel streets. She said to get the neighbourhood watch up and running was a challenge, because when the area is quiet and there is no crime, people tend to miss meetings.

“Luckily, we have a consistent number of patrollers who are out daily. We are accredited with the Department of Community Safety, and we are busy with our training, and we are in the process of establishing street committees.

“It is our vision to get the whole community involved. This has been on the agenda for a while. I think it is a very positive thing to have a large neighbourhood watch. We will now be stronger, and we are encouraging people to support this. There is strength in numbers and we need to unite.”