More than 200 neighbourhood watch groups joined a mass information meeting in the Cape Town Council Chamber on Saturday morning.
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The session was the first since the COVID-19 pandemic, and focused on a range of issues and opportunities available to the neighbourhood watch (NW) fraternity.
In 2017, the City and Western Cape Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding, recognising the organisations as capable partners in the fight against crime.
This latest session included a briefing on the inner workings of the City’s Emergency Policing Incident Control (EPIC) system, the Law Enforcement Auxiliary Service and opportunities for members of accredited NWs, as well as a presentation by the Disaster Risk Management Centre on the role of NWs in mitigating the risk of, and amplifying the response to, disasters that may occur.
“We’ve long held the belief that Neighbourhood Watches are a critical component not just in our crime fighting efforts, but public safety on the whole,” said Mayco Member for Safety and Security JP Smith. “The City and Province have a long-standing programme of training and support to these organisations, and we truly value their contribution.”
“And, while there are regular meetings, patrols and other forms of communication with the individual watches, these mass information sessions offer an opportunity for everyone to meet face to face, share ideas and challenges, and take away important lessons or suggestions that can help take their organisation to the next level.”
Over the past 15 years, the City has invested millions of rand to provide NWs with training and support, including equipment like reflective jackets, torches, first aid kits, hand radios and radio base stations for their watch rooms.
The City has also partnered with organisations to install and share information between CCTV camera networks.
Neighbourhood watches also had a hand in the City’s education and awareness drives during the COVID-19 pandemic, and were one of a number of non-governmental stakeholders on standby to assist with the City’s handling of the water crisis in 2018.
“It’s important to acknowledge that neighbourhood watches today do far more than the street patrols that were their core business in the past,” Smith added. “They’ve evolved, with the changing times, and have come to be partners we can rely on in a number of challenges facing our city.”
“There’ve also been opportunities, like our Law Enforcement volunteers, which has grown exponentially since its launch in 2013.”
“The auxiliary service is made up exclusively of members of accredited Neighbourhood Watches who meet the necessary criteria. We’ve also recently expanded the programme to avail opportunities for administrative volunteers for those watch members for whom uniformed volunteer service is not possible.”
The City also hosts an annual Neighbourhood Watch Awards ceremony to recognise the contribution of individuals and groupings within the fraternity.
Picture: Supplied / CoCT