Unified crime fighting

Andrew Martin delivers his presentation.

A new umbrella body aims to co-ordinate crime-fighting efforts in Hout Bay so that criminals will “live in fear” and incidents can be prevented before they happen.

The launch of the Hout Bay Community Improvement Association (HBCIA) last week is being viewed as an important step in the fight against crime at local level. Rather than public and corporate donations being directed towards individual safety and security initiatives, as is currently the case, funds will be accumulated by the HBCIA and distributed to these organisations as needs arise.

The launch of the association is to streamline and structure the fund-raising process so that resources can be spread more effectively.

Rather than Community Crime Prevention (CCP), the Hout Bay Community Police Forum or Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch (HBNW) competing with one another for much-needed funds, these will now be gathered by the central body and distributed according to a crime prevention budget.

By centralising collections, the association will be able to put four to six specialised response teams on the ground 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Full-time tactical controllers can be employed at the WatchCon joint operations centre, a secure communications network can be established, intelligent threat-detection mechanisms such as cameras and ground movement sensors can be put in place and emergency medical services procured to serve Hout Bay.

In addition, the plan, which has been more than a year in the making, makes provision for social crime prevention by helping unemployed people to find jobs and rolling out projects to keep youth off the streets.

At the launch at Riverside Estates on Thursday November 30, Andrew Martin, the chairman of the Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch and one of the drivers of the initiative, said: “This is a significant plan to achieve our vision of a safe Hout Bay using our existing partners. We want criminals to live in fear, and importantly we want security benefits for everyone. The association will act as the fund-raiser to achieve this vision, while also offering support to our partners.

“We have looked at all aspects in coming up with this plan. We believe it will be highly beneficial to have a legal resource to call on to make sure we are doing all things by the book. For example, we were told that the CCP tracking dog has to be on a lead at all times because it is not an official police dog. Knowing such information is important if criminals are to be successfully prosecuted.”

Mr Martin said the problem with limited resources was that crime response teams were often “reactive-based” and arrived on the scene after the damage had already been done.

“So we need a more proactive approach, and this can be done by co-ordinating our efforts. We need to increase our resources, and we also need to migrate from a system of part-time volunteers to one of full-time professionals. The model we wish to implement is called detect-delay-response. By doing this, our responders can be put into a position where they can close in and form a net around criminals so they can be apprehended.”

Currently, the crime and safety organisations are accumulating an estimated R160 000 a month between them. The HBCIA intends to raise R1.1 million a month to pay for the required security measures.

With an estimated 5 500 ratepayers in Hout Bay, each household would be asked to contribute R225 a month. However, this figure is before any corporate donations, and, to this end, the HBCIA will be approaching local businesses to get involved.

Essentially, the greater the contribution from the corporate sector, the less residents will have to pay each month.

Mr Martin said the association was aware that attaining the desired R1.1 million would “not happen overnight”, and so it had set a series of financial goals building up to that point.

For example, R300 000 would cover the costs of the first special response team, a legal consultant, WatchCon manager and tactical controllers working on a full-time basis. The project, he said, would be rolled out in two phases.

Those already donating to the individual partners would continue to do so, so the first phase would see the association identifying residents currently not contributing to any security organisation. Should they be on board with the plan, their contributions would be directed through the HBCIA.

The second phase would see all contributions being made through the HBCIA.

Mr Martin added that the HBCIA would be a registered non-profit organisation with full accreditation from the SA Revenue Service.

In a video address to the 60 guests who attended the launch, CCP chairperson Keri Cross said co-ordinated fund-raising efforts in Penzance had dropped the crime rate to zero.

She said not only had those efforts eliminated incidents in Penzance, but property values in the area had skyrocketed by as much as 86% over a three-year period.

The HBCIA also received the backing of JP Smith, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security and social services, in another video address.

“Often the successes we have had in terms of effective crime prevention have come through innovative community policing initiatives. Hout Bay has been a leader in this regard, and often people over the mountain look to Hout Bay to see where the next evolutionary step will come from. So we are looking forward to seeing what comes out of this (project),” he said.

Ward councillor Roberto Quintas also gave his backing to the initiative, describing the co-ordinated approach as “fantastic”.

“It is vital that the Hout Bay community, NGOs and the private sector stand together,” he said. “The burden on the South African Police Service is huge. Currently 30% of positions within the police in the Western Cape lie vacant. We are the most under-resourced province in the country, and, in particular, we have a very under-resourced station in Hout Bay. The City of Cape Town supports the SAPS through the Metro police and law enforcement, but community safety collaborations such as this are essential to supplement efforts.”