The Kraaifontein Community Police Forum has urged neighbourhood watches to stand down during the lockdown and has vowed to stop watch members from resuming street patrols.
This comes after the City’s Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, called for neighbourhood watches – which are accredited with the Department of Community Safety – to submit the names of members who would be prepared to work as disaster risk management volunteers (“Call for neighbourhood watch volunteers,” Northern News, April 9).
Kraaifontein CPF spokesman Clamen Solomons said neighbourhood watches were not regarded as essential services and members were vulnerable to Covid-19.
“It was brought to our attention that neighbourhood watches in Kraaifontein are gearing up to patrol their areas, following Mr Smith’s statement, but we will not allow this and Kraaifontein police have welcomed our decisions.”
Mr Solomons said neighbourhood watch patrollers were at risk of contracting the virus while interacting with members of the public and they would be unable to rely on the police for swift back-up because the police would be busy with patrols and roadblocks.
“We understand that these neighbourhood watches want to keep the areas safe, but their health is of utmost importance to us,” he said.
However, Windsor Park Neighbourhood Watch has launched an online petition to have CPFs and neighbourhood watches listed as essential services. So far more than 35 000 people have signed it. Anita Crouse, the chairwoman of the Windsor Park watch, said: “We know our area. We know where all the criminal and homeless hot spots are. Unfamiliar faces patrolling here would cause havoc.”
She said she was aware of the risk of contracting Covid-19, but the watch members could do a lot of good at this time.
“Why would disaster management call for volunteers if we are at risk if we work for them? Our communities rely on us to keep them safe.”
Scottsville Neighbourhood Watch chairman Gavin Riddles said their members were not patrolling following an instruction from police.
“As a neighbourhood watch, we would have been very effective in our areas, but we were told that we are not allowed to patrol, and now our communities are just doing as they please.”
Residents were complaining about drugs and alcohol being sold and used on street corners, but his hands were tied, he said.
“Police show up, and everyone goes inside, but when they leave things are back to normal.”
Scottsville High School had been vandalised twice since lockdown began and security guards had been posted on the premises, he said.
Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said there had been a break-in at the school on Friday, April 3. She said it wasn’t yet known what had been taken or whether there had been any damage.
There had been 50 burglaries and acts of vandalism reported at schools across the city since March 20, she said.
“The WCED would like to thank community members who have reported suspicious behavior in and around our schools. We would also like to appeal to all communities to please assist us further by reporting suspicious activity or the sale of goods obtained at schools.”
Kraaifontein police Captain Hein Hendricks said neighbourhood watches were not defined as essential services.
“Neighbourhood watch members must stay at home during the lockdown,” he said.