Welgemoed is a quiet neighbourhood watched over by security cameras and private security, but after a murder, a rape and a series of break-ins, all in less than a year, residents are nervous.
At a safety seminar at the Dutch Reformed Church last week, they heard how they could make their homes less vulnerable to intruders.
Olof Burger, operations manager of Welgemoed Safe, said they had noticed a common trend in recent burglaries and robberies, where the suspects had waited to strike when the gardener or domestic worker was home alone and the alarm was off.
“The suspects removed entire windows, and it’s mostly when the helpers and gardener landscapers are alone that criminals strike. We’ve had enough of these break-ins.”
According to Welgemoed Safe, they’ve had about 30 break-ins this year – down 20 from last year, but still too high, they say.
In one incident a domestic worker had been locked in a room after coming face to face with an intruder.
About a 100 people, including residents as well as domestic workers and gardeners were at the seminar, which was organised by Welgemoed Safe, Bellville police and private security firm Fidelity ADT.
The neighbourhood is on edge after a 20-year-old woman was raped on Thursday June 28.
According to the police, a man overpowered her in the garden of her parents’ home in broad daylight, took her inside and raped her.
When the woman’s mother arrived home, the attacker threatened her and locked her in a room with her daughter.
The man stole electronic equipment from the house.
Police are investigating and the assailant, who is in his early 20s, is still at large.
Police are also still investigating the murder, in November last year, of Sandra Kelz. Her body was found in a bedroom of her Protea Valley home.
At last Thursday’s seminar, Welgemoed Neighbourhood Watch chairman Chris van Royen warned residents not to be lulled into complacency by security cameras in the suburb.
Cameras were not a replacement for vigilance.
“There’s always a concern of crime, but with ADT we’re working on trying to increase visibility in the area, through patrols, cameras and the watch.”
Mr Burger claimed criminals were disguising themselves as homeless people to get into the neighbourhood.
“We want the community to be aware,” he said.
Bellville police’s Colonel Fienie Nimb said it was important for domestic staff to know how to avoid being surprised by intruders and how to respond if they were confronted by criminals.
That included knowing whom to call and where to hide.
Residents should have burglar bars and alarm systems fitted to windows.
She said it had been a good move to hold the safety seminar.
“SAPS commends initiatives like these because residents take their helpers as part of their families, so they want them to be safe and that is why it is important to involve the police”.
Slyvia Nkosi, who has been a domestic worker in the area for three years, said the seminar had drummed home the importance of taking basic precautions.
“Now we know to always lock the doors, the alarm must be on and always be careful when you are alone in the house,” she said.
A domestic worker of 10 years, Funeka Ndamase, said: “I have never been a victim of crime but these days you never know. It’s good to know what to do in the situation, like don’t try to be a hero, keep the police’s number close and scream for help if criminals break in.”
Marie Bester, from ADT, said it was important to learn how to spot potential risks and criminals, know how to react in an emergency and to be proactive about security.
“If you arm yourself with the correct safety and security skills, calling the police, identifying potential criminals, it could potentially save your life in an emergency.”