Taking Back the Streets

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Keeping yourself and your family safe in your home has become a major concern for a growing number of households around the country. The latest buzzword appears to be 'home invasions' and, judging by the recent reports regarding the on-going problem in Hillcrest in KwaZulu-Natal, house robberies are not only on the increase, the perpetrators are becoming more violent.

It can be said, with a fair amount of confidence, that the general public has lost faith in the police. Slow reaction times, coupled with slack or non-existent detective work, have taken their toll and more and more people are choosing to protect themselves and their communities by establishing community safety networks, perhaps better known as neighbourhood watch organisations.

In a survey commissioned by AfriForum, Rudolph Zinn, a senior forensic investigation lecturer at the School of Criminal Justice and Police Practice at UNISA, and Nantes Kelder from AfriForum, highlighted the effectiveness of organisations formed by communities for the purpose of bringing down crime in a particular area. The results were quite astonishing.

The report noted that those who responded regarded the neighbourhood in which they lived as a high crime area prior to the establishment of the community safety network. Since then, crime in their areas had dropped significantly and the respondents now consider their area as ones with a ‘low crime incidence’. In addition, all the respondents could quote statistics to prove that not only had crime dropped considerably in the community safety network's area, but in most instances, it was significantly lower in comparison to that in neighbouring areas where there was no community safety network in place.

While it is important to note that neighbourhood watch initiatives do help reduce crime, its members are not there to apprehend criminals, but rather to act as the eyes and ears of the authorities, alerting them when suspicious behaviour is observed.

AfriForum’s report confirms this and states that the main function of all community safety networks is to undertake visible policing actions in neighbourhoods in order to prevent crime. The visible policing actions consist mostly of car patrols, but in some instances also include foot and bicycle patrols.

Although these crime prevention initiatives have proven to be very effective, they are totally reliant on the local community's involvement and sadly, according to the report, the interest in remaining involved wanes as soon as crime drops.

It pays to remember that criminals do not disappear; they simply move on to other, less secure areas and will return once they feel the security in a specific area has lapsed.

The message, it seems, is clear. One of the best ways to protect your family is by keeping your suburb safe and the easiest, most productive way of doing this is by forming or joining a neighbourhood watch. Keep your eyes peeled and stay safe!

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