Residents call for revival of defunct neighbourhood watch

Councillor Wandisile Ngeyi says other neighbourhoods can learn a thing or two from the Table View Neighbourhood Watch, which won the Neighbourhood Watch of the Year award earlier this year. Pictured are Table View CPF chairman David Harris with TVNW chairman Grant Lemos at the awards held in March this year.

Crime-weary Milnerton residents are calling for a neighbourhood watch to be revived in the suburb.

The watch that used to operate in the area was closed down as a patrolling entity some 20 years ago due to lack of community support, according to Craig Pedersen, the patrol co-ordinator for Milnerton Crime Watch.

The issue came up at Milnerton Central Resident’s Association annual general meeting last month, when a proposal from the floor to revive the watch drew support from the 100-odd people at the meeting, including Ward 4 councillor Wandisile Ngeyi.

The MCRA’s Leon Heyns, who holds its security portfolio, said the association was giving the issue attention because it wasn’t the first time it had come up.

The meeting heard there had been several muggings in Ixia and Pienaar roads, and the police say Pienaar Road is a hot spot for car thefts.

Mr Ngeyi said there was a perception among many residents that crime was rising in the area.

“It’s important for Milnerton to be like the other surrounding neighbourhoods who have these watches. If you look at Table View, for instance, they have two neighbourhood watches, including a CPF, street committees and street WhatsApp groups.

“There is no reason why these structures can’t work here. Residents should get involved and also report crimes,” he said.

While the residents at the meeting felt crime was rising in the area, it’s hard to get a clear picture of exactly what it is doing because the police only release national crime statistics once a year and Milnerton police wouldn’t give Tabletalk data about recent crime trends in the precinct.

The national crime stats were last released in October last year and pointed to an overall drop in most crime categories in Milnerton, while some property-related crime, particularly shoplifting, increased.

But the reliability of the national police statistics is also frequently questioned – one criticism being that the stats are already out of date when released and only record reported crimes.

Mr Pedersen said people often turned to social media instead of their local police station to report crime and that could skew crime stats.

He believes there has been an increase in petty crime in Milnerton, but this may have more to do with a common seasonal trend rather than anything else.

“While I share the residents concerns, it is important to note that this upswing in petty crime is always prevalent at the onset of winter.

“Residents are not as observant as usual with regards to strangers walking the streets, alarms aren’t always heard over the rain and of course we find many gates left open in the rush to get inside from the rain.”

Nevertheless, he said the Crime Watch would welcome a new structure to fight crime.

Milnerton Crime Watch is a private security company, registered under the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority. It was established in 1998 when the neighbourhood watch foundered. Residents pay R225 a month for its security services.

“The residents that contribute have access to a cellphone in the patrol cars that they can reach any time they have a concern or emergency.

“They can also link their alarm monitoring so that any activations are received by the patrol cars,” said Mr Pedersen.

There are 22 accredited watches in the Milnerton cluster, including Summer Greens, Tygerhof, Sanddrift, Phoenix Block 2, Parklands and Table View.

Milnerton SAPS spokeswoman Captain Nopaya Madyibi said property-related crimes, such as burglaries, were a problem in central Milnerton.

She wouldn’t give specific data, though, but said a neighbourhood watch could make a real difference keeping crime in check.

“This is borne out by the levels of reported crime in areas with properly constituted neighbourhood watches registered with the Department of Community Safety and affiliated to the community police forum, and those without,” she said.

Former Milnerton CPF chairwoman Lianne Lippert said Milnerton Crime Watch was doing a very good job in the area, but it couldn’t be everywhere all the time.

“If an active, effective neighbourhood watch was in place, this would enhance the capabilities of Milnerton Crime Watch,” said Ms Lippert, who is a member of Tygerhof Neighbourhood Watch.

“There have been various attempts over the years to get a neighbourhood watch up and running, but there doesn’t seem to be the necessary buy-in from community members,” she said.

Captain Madyibi said any residents interested in starting up a neighbourhood watch could call the sector co-ordinator Captain Andre Fourie on 079 894 1461 for advice on how to go about it.

Tabletalk approached Milnerton CPF for comment but it did not respond by the time this issue went to print.