Stalwart watchman wins award

Neighbourhood watch co-ordinator for the Kraaifontein Community Police Forum, John Smidt, left, won the Citys Community Cohesion Award for the work he has done with neighbourhood watches in Kraaifontein. He is with Scottsville Neighbourhood Watch chairman Gavin Riddles.

A volunteer crime fighter has won a City award for the work he has done for Kraaifontein’s neighbourhood watches.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith presented John Smidt with the City’s Community Cohesion Award at a ceremony at the Cape Town Civic Centre late last year. Mr Smidt is Kraaifontein Community Police Forum’s (CPF) neighbourhood watch co-ordinator and has worked with the watches for more than 15 years.

“As a neighbourhood watch, we become family,” Mr Smidt said, adding that when he had started out with the watch, things had been done very differently.

“We had about 200 to 300 members from Wallacedene, Scottsdene, Scottsville and Bloekombos. We started off at the station, and the police would deploy everyone to different areas. We patrolled from 9pm to 2pm, and then the police would take everyone home.”

That changed as each area started its own watch. The first to do so was Bellmont Park. Now there are 21 neighbourhood watches in Kraaifontein, and they fall under the Kraaifontein CPF and the Department of Community Safety (DOCS).

Once a watch is registered with the department, it can get resources needed for patrols. However, Mr Smidt said, that could be both a blessing and curse because while the resources were welcome, the lengthy registration process was frustrating and led to people losing interest and quitting. Businesses could stop that from happening, he said, by supporting the watches and sponsoring reflector vests, walkie-talkies and torches.

“These are the things we really need. People are doing this voluntary. We don’t want people to have to buy their own stuff. They are already giving up their time.”

Scottsville Neighbourhood Watch chairman Gavin Riddles echoed Mr Smidt’s call for support, saying, “I applaud the work being done by him. He sometimes puts in his own time and money into the neighbourhood watches, so I ask the community to support him.”

The Community Cohesion Award is given to a watch member who has displayed exceptional leadership, courage or fortitude in building community cohesion through specific community projects, outdoor activities and recreational events.

Hylton Mitchell, the City’s neighbourhood watch awards committee co-ordinator, said Mr Smidt had won the award because of the bridges he built with stakeholders to fight crime.

“John Smidt created a special communication channel, specifically with outside stakeholders, such as SAPS, Metrorail, businesses and security companies with the neighbourhood watch members to ensure that all role-players can respond to incidents of crime in the Kraaifontein area,” he said.

Jerome Norris, the assistant director of neighbourhood watch accreditation for DOCS, said the voluntary registration of watches took about three months, provided all the documentation was filed correctly.

Fourteen items are needed to register including founding documents, codes of conduct, bank statements, affidavits, letters of endorsement and maps.