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NEIGHBOURS AND PROTECTORS

Extreme inspiration — meet the award-winning locals tackling crime in Delft, SA’s murder capital

Extreme inspiration — meet the award-winning locals tackling crime in Delft, SA’s murder capital
Elsabe Peterson on patrol in Eindhoven, Delft, on 23 November 2023. Petersen, from the Extreme Neighbourhood Watch, received the Inspiration of the Year Award. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

Delft, a Cape Town suburb known for its high crime rate, recently scooped a number of key crime-fighting awards, with Extreme Neighbourhood Watch taking the Inspiration Award and the Western Cape’s best detective stationed at the Delft police station.

Delft, which is about 20km from the Cape Town CBD and close to Cape Town International Airport, is officially the country’s murder capital, with 80 reported murders between July and September 2023. It also suffers from fragmented policing and, more recently, extortion claims which led to yet another murder at a key housing site. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: City of Cape Town to restart massive housing project stalled by extortion and murder

Recent crime statistics also show that between July and September there were 58 reported rapes in Delft – the eight highest in the country – and it had the fifth-highest reported common assaults (299), while sexual offences stood at 66, putting the suburb 10th countrywide. 

“Delft has grown overnight. We have our normal petty crimes and we have our normal shootings, so there was no decrease in crime statistics”, said Pastor Charles George, the chairperson of the local community policing forum.

Established in 1989 as the first mixed-race township for black and coloured people, the suburb had six distinct areas but now has more than 10 as well as shack settlements. It is often in the news for its crime rates and protests over issues such as a lack of housing and infrastructure to cope with the growing population. By the 2011 census there were 152,000 people living in Delft. The 2022 census data for the area has not been released yet. In the past 10 years there have been at least six schools built to keep up.

However, Delft has only one police station, despite its growing population. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Delft: Poor policing and fragmented planning fuel high crime rate

But while crime has increased, two individuals and a neighbourhood watch have been praised for their commitment to not only fighting crime, but also building a community. 

Delft

Elsabe Petersen of the Extreme Neighbourhood Watch  in Delft receives the Inspiration of the Year Award from mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith. (Photo: Supplied)

Award winners

In this year’s neighbourhood watch awards – held annually by the City of Cape Town to honour local crime fighters – Delft’s Extreme Neighbourhood Watch walked away with two awards in the individual and group categories. The event was held on 18 November. 

The watch received the Social Responsibility Award which recognises commitment to addressing, mitigating and healing social ills, and to healthier, inclusive and united communities. Its co-founder, Elsabe Petersen, received the Inspiration of the Year Award for her inspirational public leadership. 

The watch was founded in 2017 by Elsabe and her husband, Anton, who had become concerned about crime in Delft. Their goal was to teach young people to become better citizens by offering a series of activities such as soccer, netball and educational exercises to shift their minds from the world of crime.

The community’s perspective of us has changed over the years; they are more willing to work with us than against us.

“We tried to keep them active and away from the wrong things because most of them were not in school any longer. So it started with getting involved with them and keeping them away from all the wrong things, then moved to patrolling our own streets where we live safe and free from unwanted persons late at night,” Petersen said.

The watch has 15 members who patrol within a designated boundary and work with young people. They received their official accreditation in 2018, and the City of Cape Town provides resources such as torches, reflector bibs and first aid training. 

Delft

Elsabe Petersen and Edward Phillips on patrol in Eindhoven on 23 November 2023. (Photo: Shelley Christians)

“We had great challenges when it came to recruitment of members because people were not always willing to do what we do on a voluntary basis. As the group grew and we received support from the City and other businesses for our hard work and determination, people started joining,” said Petersen. 

“I’ve seen how the community’s perspective of us has changed over the years; they are more willing to work with us than against us.”

Although the neighbourhood watch is doing well, Petersen would like more residents to join the plan to transform Delft into a safer community where young people are ambitious and focused on learning and becoming better citizens of society.

“Delft is a really big area and we do need more members in order for us to expand our patrol blocks. We need more men to come forward and join our NHW for more support with our patrols,” she said.

Being a cop is not easy but because of my passion and dedication to serve the community, I will be a cop until I die.

Petersen said “the awards mean a lot to me as an individual because all the years of hard work is paying off and it is an honour to know that I am an inspiration to others, not only to neighbourhood watch members but also to my community.” 

Speaking on behalf of the community policing forum, George said he was “chuffed” about the recognition of Extreme NW as they are “taking a step into the right direction”.

Warrant Officer Thobela Nzimani received the Best Detective award in Century City on 11 November 2023. (Photo: Supplied)

Warrant Officer Thobela Nzimani named Top Detective 

In this year’s South African Police Service (SAPS) Western Cape awards, Warrant Officer Thobela Nzimani received the Best Detective award in a ceremony at Century City on 11 November. 

Daily Maverick spoke to Nzimani (46) about the challenges of being stationed in Delft, where crime rates are so high. 

“Working in Delft is a great challenge as you can all see from what is displayed on television . It is not easy to work here because of the high gangsterism coming from the squatter camps.”

According to News24, she received the award for working hard to secure 36 convictions for various crimes, including murder, violence against families and the possession of illegal firearms and ammunition. 

Nzimani, who has been working for the SAPS for 20 years, said that even though she and her fellow officers face immense challenges with high crime rates, this award proves that they are on the right track and that nothing beats being rewarded for hard work.

“Winning this award was the happiest moment of my life. I know that I am a huge inspiration to many young girls out there who wish to pursue careers in this field. Being a cop is not easy but because of my passion and dedication to serve the community, I will be a cop until I die.” DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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