Residents of Ward 44 in Gugulethu have taken matters in their own hands to combat crime in the area. About 122 volunteers have signed up to do community policing work, which encompasses patrolling the area 24 hours a day, checking sewage problems and collecting rubbish material. The group has divided itself into three shifts, working around the clock from 7am. By Johnnie Isaacs for GROUNDUP.
Joseph Pinyane, the secretary general of the patrol unit, said, “As far as I know we are the only patrol unit that operates 24 hours. Certain areas operate on certain times.”
Members of the patrol unit say the aim is to create a safe environment.
Pinyane said, “This project has been introduced by law enforcement and is doing a great service for police because we enter the dark corners of our communities they are unable to reach.”
The group came about because of the high numbers of petty crime incidents such as pickpocketing, especially when people were returning or going to work; house break-ins; and theft of electric cables, which are then sold to scrap yards.
Pinyane said, “We now accompany people when they leave for work in the early hours of the morning. Even the incidents that were happening on the N2 from the airport have been reduced since our presence.”
Another volunteer said, “Since we began operating a number of scrapyards in the area have closed because we have shut down their suppliers of stolen material.”
The group said they are getting good feedback from the community and police are impressed with them for the work they are doing when they catch offenders and bring them to police stations.
However, they believe their relationship with the police could be better.
One member said, “Police take their time to arrive when we have caught someone. Some of them [police] have girlfriends in the community and they use police vehicles to see their partners. You call a police station and they’ll tell you there’s no police van, while we see it parked outside someone’s house.”
Despite their efforts, the group remains concerned about the community’s vulnerability to criminals.
“They know us and what we stand for and could easily target one of us. Currently one of our members is lying in hospital after he was shot while patrolling,” said a volunteer.
The group says it is facing a lot of challenges.
“We have no sponsors. We need proper boots. At the moment, each person wears their own shoes. We also need tools like bulletproof vests, torches, batons, pepper spray and such equipment.”
The group said it would also help if they had a stipend and a supply of tea, coffee and sugar. “It’s very cold at night,” said one volunteer. DM
Photo: Volunteers from Ward 44 in Gugulethu who have formed a community patrol. (Johnnie Isaac).
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