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05 December 2022

Neighbourhood watch groups come together to keep communities safe

It is reported that introducing a Neighbourhood Watch Group (NWG) into a community can see a reduction in crime. In the Western Cape, a reduction of 6.8% was recorded in 2019 in comparison to property related crime in 2018 thanks in part to the hard work and dedication of the 300+ formally accredited NWG’s in the Cape Town metropole. 

In mid-2022, the Western Cape government announced it would inject an additional R1m into the city's Neighbourhood Watch Support Programme. This investment will take the total budget for patrol and crime prevention equipment to R5.6 million, signalling the perceived value of these community groups. 

Community policing plays a vital role in assisting the police in preventing and curbing crime. Three popular ways to stay connected, provide support and seek assistance when needed include:

- WhatsApp Groups: These are perfect for staying up to date with your immediate neighbours. They are effective for sharing general updates, loadshedding schedules and to alert everyone of a possible disturbance. They are not registered as an official NWG, but often have local security company representatives on the group who are able to pick up alerts and assist as first responders as required.
- Community Watch Groups: These operate as per the above but usually come in the form of a Facebook page or a larger WhatsApp group. These groups extend updates and provide a connection to a broader group of residents, most often covering an entire suburb or small town.
- Police affiliated Neighbourhood Watch Groups: These are affiliated with a sector community forum provided by the local police station. Once the group is officially registered, members who would like to patrol undergo a criminal clearance screening and receive branded bibs, equipment and security branding to place on their car when on duty. Members are guided by the police on the correct protocol to follow when an alert is received or an incident encountered. 

Duma Ngcobo, Chief Operations Officer at Tracker says the reason why community groups and NWG programs have become so popular is because people are looking for proactive ways to curb potential crime incidents. “The benefit of these groups is a greater sense of community and security. Whilst building bonds with neighbours, you can look out for each other and stimulate greater neighbourhood awareness and support, as well as reap the benefits of a safer precinct.”

In many cases, residents have become fed up with the crime they’ve already experienced and the reality is, simply familiarising yourself with or joining a local NWG programme has many benefits including: 

Reduction in incidents: Visible neighbourhood watch signs and patrolling can act as a deterrent, reinforcing that it is an area with vigilant residents. Members of the group can spot a potential incident or crime in progress and report it to the wider group to request assistance and escalate further to the local authorities. 

Developing self-empowerment: A neighbourhood watch program provides a positive solution to feeling powerless against crime. You feel empowered to take control of your safety by having the knowledge of what to do and who to contact. You also feel empowered by staying abreast of what is happening in your area.

Cultivating accountability: You are all working toward the same goal: a safer community with less crime. You’ll be able to notice when something is out of place or unusual, so you know when to be concerned. The same applies to your neighbours learning your patterns so they know when you may require assistance. 

Getting to know the authorities: Your local police station is a valuable asset in fighting crime. They can guide you in identifying and reporting a crime, and how to ensure you don’t compromise your own safety in doing so. Filing incident reports and opening cases when a crime is committed is vital so that the station can be resourced according to the needs of the area.

Getting to know the trends: Is there an increase in hijackings or vehicle theft in your area, has your previously crime-free suburb become a hotspot? Being active in a neighbourhood watch group allows you to identify patterns and allows you and your neighbours to increase your awareness and exercise additional caution.

Connecting through technology: Improved video resolution allows NWG and improvement district security cameras to cover a broad view of the street, while dashcams can monitor activity whilst you are patrolling. Using this technology, you are able to compare notes at meetings and share footage when appropriate. There are also apps which give you access to on-demand and 24/7 emergency response, via dial-in services or even with the drop of a WhatsApp pin.

It is said that if you want to go far, go together. These groups form an integral part of the community policing and security philosophy that is being adopted across suburbs in South Africa and based on these benefits, they will continue to gain momentum as residents realise there is strength in unity.

For more information on Tracker and the services it offers to protect your loved ones at home, on roads and in life, head to www.tracker.co.za.