Watches back on the beat

The Western Cape is the only province in South Africa which regulates its neighbourhood watches.

Neighbourhood watches are patrolling the streets again, following the easing of lockdown restrictions at the start of the month, but they need permits from the Department of Community Safety to do so.

Goodwood Neighbourhood Watch chairwoman Leona van Wyk says there was a spike in break-ins, fence jumpers, thefts from vehicles in the months the watches stood down, although police say they saw no such increase. Vic Barra, of the Monte Vista and Plattekloof Glen Watch, said they had seen a rise in petty crime while the watches had been out of action. 

The Department of Community Safety is issuing permits to accredited watches, allowing them to patrol.But patrollers must be free of Covid-19 symptoms; wear masks, sanitise regularly, not patrol in groups, have no more than two persons per vehicle and practise physical distancing. 

Goodwood Community Police Forum chairman John Ross said they could also operate and were following safety protocols. 

Glenwood Neighbourhood Watch chairman James Ellis said they had continued monitoring the area for any emergencies during the weeks they had been unable to patrol, and four members had worked as City disaster risk management volunteers, helping with crowd control and physical distancing at a local supermarket. “The community is our first call when it comes to safety,” he said.

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said only his department, not SAPS, could issue permits to the watches, allowing them to patrol, and the department would only do so for accredited watches. 

“An extensive communication has been issued to the chairpersons of all accredited structures outlining the protocols that they must adhere to while operating.”

Goodwood police spokesman Captain Wayne Theunis said there had been no increase in crime during lockdown, with the exception of a slight increase since the start of level 3. They had also not seen any increase in drunk driving or domestic violence since the lifting of the alcohol ban. Parow Police spokesman Captain Keith Williams said they had also not seen a spike in alcohol-related crime.