Big Brother pays off

Burglaries and house robberies remain a problem in Monte Vista, promting calls for more LPR cameras to be installed.

It’s been just more than a month since the first two licence-plate-recognition (LPR) cameras were installed in Monte Vista and they’ve scored their first arrest in a joint operation with the police, District Watch and the Monte Vista Neighbourhood Watch.

Sector 4 commander Constable Virgil Davids said Parow police had stopped a stolen car and arrested a man after the new cameras flagged the vehicle recently.

One camera costs between
R40 000 and R50 000. They are installed by Rubics among other installation companies, with iTrack software.

Constable Davids, cautioned though that LPR cameras were only a tool to flag suspicious vehicles cars and could only be used effectively with the support of the police, neighbourhood watches and security firms.

The Monte Vista Neighbourhood Watch and District Watch want the community to fund more cameras in the area, arguing that burglaries and house robberies remain a problem.

The neighbourhood watch’s chairwoman, Lee Jepson, said the area had two cameras but needed about nine more to cover all entrances and exits.

The problem with the cameras, she said, was that people believed they solved all crime but that wasn’t the case.

“The LPR cameras are there to help curb crime, not stop it,” said Ms Jepson.

But when used effectively and with the proper back-up, the cameras are a powerful weapon in the crime-fighting arsenal, say supporters of the project.

Pierre Gouws, the owner of District Watch, said as more households donate money for cameras the community will start to notice the results.

“The whole area needs to contribute. This should be a group effort. At the moment, the funding is coming form all over, but very little from the residents of the area. The faster we can get funds in, the faster we can tackle the issue of crime at hand,” said Mr Gouws.

There had been a surge in house robberies and burglaries, in the past few weeks, he said. He believes these incidents are crowbar gang-related.

“These people hit the area at least every day. They do not hit the same houses, and they don’t use the same car.”

There had been times, he said, when District Watch had responded to at least four hits or attempts in a single day. In most cases, he added, the intruders had forced their way through the front door, whereas in the past they had mostly broken in by removing window frames.

District Watch, he said, was moving to a new system where they received a direct signal from the high-risk zones of a house, such as front doors, to the armed response car.

However, claims that burglaries and house robberies are rising in the area don’t appear to be borne out by police crime statistics. The latest statistics, released last month, show a decline in burglaries, from 394 for 2014/2015 to 376 for 2015/2016 , and house robberies dropped from 21 for 2014/2015 to 17 for the 2015/2016.

Mr Gouws said his only explanation for these inconsistencies is that the area District Watch covers falls into different police precincts. He stressed that these incidents happen daily.

Police classify the crime as a burglary if nobody is at home at the time. It’s a house robbery if the intruders break in when someone is home.

In August, Goodwood police spokesman Captain Waynne Theunis said that burglaries usually happen during the day while the robberies mostly happen at night (“Robbers hit in minutes” ,Northern News, August 24,).

Captain Theunis said last week that police would be increasing patrols in hot spots, ahead of the festive season.

“We will be focusing on robberies along the Voortrekker Road corridor, railway stations, banks and shopping malls. With the increase in shoppers we will have increased deployment and our neighbourhood watch members will join us in our operations.”

He said police would place special focus on preventing violence against