The City of Cape Town and Department of Community Safety (DOCS) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with neighbourhood watches from across the city, at a mass information session, on Saturday September 30.
The City has undertaken to support the neighbourhood watch structures only if they are accredited by Docs first. They will also supplement training and support and issue equipment to those accredited structures.
According to the Docs, there is only one accredited neighbourhood watch in Mitchell’s Plain – Highlands Village Neighbourhood Watch.
Ewald Botha, spokeman for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, said the department had received three additional applications for accreditation from neighbourhood watches in the Mitchell’s Plain area: Westgate, Colorado and Portlands.
“They are in the application process and accreditation will be granted if and when they are compliant with all the stipulated criteria as per the Community Safety Act and its regulations,” he said.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith, said they were committed to helping neighbourhood watches become accountable and capable partners in the fight against crime.
“The City of Cape Town is aware of the impact they make in their communities, and we commend them for it.
“For this reason, we provide watches with significant resources in line with our Organisational Development and Transformation Plan priority to create safer communities by working with residents,” he said.
He said that over the past decade, the City had spent millions of rands training volunteers and providing neighbourhood watches with equipment such as jackets, torches, bicycles, hand radios and radio base stations. It had also partnered with them to install and share information between CCTV camera networks.
Mr Botha said it was a historic agreement, the first of its kind, and formalised co-operation between the spheres of government and with neighbourhood watches specifically.
He said the MOU was the culmination of the entire process of professionalising neighbourhood watches as envisaged in the Community Safety Act.
“It is important to remember that neighbourhood watches are not the police.
“We believe that neighbourhood watches are integral safety stakeholders in communities and that there needs to be adequate working relationships with all safety stakeholders, including the police and community police forum, in order to help mobilise the entire community around safety.
“This includes the safety of those who serve their community both with a badge or as a volunteer,” he said.
Mr Botha said the department could support accredited neighbourhood structures through its training programme.
They offer basic neighbourhood watch , first aid, and basic firefighting training.
“We also provide a tool kit, also referred to as a starter kit, to every accredited neighbourhood watch to empower structures to operate effectively and in a manner as prescribed in the regulations,” he said.
Abie Isaacs, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum, with which nine neighbourhood watches are registered, said they supported the agreement, as it meant they were able to get even more support from the departments.
“The more support (we get), the better,” he said. “It is important that they are equipped and trained while fighting crime.
“In the past, you had people with different colour jackets that came from the City and Docs but now it will be standard,” he said.
Explainingthedifference between registration and accreditation, Mr Isaacs said being registered meant that they formed part of the CPF and were active, while being accredited involved going through a screening process that enabled watches to be eligible for training with Docs.
To be accredited, neighbourhood watches need to have a constitution, minutes of their annual general meeting, and a document signed by the community police forum chairperson and the station commander.
Mitchell’s Plain neighbourhood watch chairman Daniel Davids said he, too. supported the agreement.
Mr Davids added that over the past two years there had been great support from the departments, and that he hoped the agreement would be sustainable.
“We are happy that the departments have come together. What we need is the support because crime is real in our areas. The good thing about this is training.
“The more they are empowered and skilled, the more efficiently the members can do their work,” he said.
He added that they were in the process of getting the structures accredited.