Communities reclaim the streets through CPFs

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					Communities reclaim the streets through CPFs
Thousands of city residents from townships to farming communities and wealthy suburbs are taking the fight to criminals in an effort to take back their streets. By: Graeme Hosken For Watson Nxele, Atteridgeville’s Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairman, the thought of letting criminals terrorise his community is something that he and hundreds of the township’s residents cannot and will not let happen. Banding together, the more than 300 of 32 Pretoria and 131 in Gauteng, has decided that it will no longer sit back and allow criminals rule their streets. “What is happening in our streets and in our suburb is unacceptable. We have decided that we will not sit back and simply allow crime to continue,” he said, describing how and why residents decided to from a CPF. Nxele said to combat crime they worked closely with police, saturating areas identified as crime hot spots. He said their patrollers, many of whom were police reservists, had undergone training for several months. “All members are volunteers who give up their mornings and evenings to patrol the township’s streets, armed only with batons and torches,” he said, adding that most members were unemployed. Nxele said that despite there being only a few hundred members they had overwhelming support from the community with many residents providing information on criminals and crimes that occurred in the area. “People are sick and tired of crime. They are tired of living in fear. They are tired of crime not being stopped. We see the support through the number of people who volunteer to become a community watch member and through those who give us information on crime,” he said. Nxele, however, added that while they had over 300 members they needed a lot more in order to bring the township’s crime under control. “Our area is huge and there is a lot of crime taking place, especially in the informal sectors where we face our biggest challenges when it comes to policing.” Nxele said their biggest challenge was to stop crime before it occurred. “To do this we need to get a lot more residents involved in the fight on crime. If we don’t the war on crime will never be won.” Marie Kruger, Kameeldrift CPF chairwoman, agreed and said that CPF’s, which played a vital role in reducing crime in their area, needed the support of all residents. “CPF’s not only help stop crime, but they also bring community’s safety and security concerns to government’s attention. “Knowing that there is a CPF, especially if it is a strong one, makes criminals think twice about committing a crime,” she said.

She said the number of CPFs in the Pretoria policing area had increased dramatically with thousands of people joining because of the belief that government and the police could no longer protect them “CPFs have always been there, but have never been well-manned until now. We are now seeing more and more people join, because of the belief that nothing is being done to stop crime. “People are sick and tired of crime and are afraid of becoming the next victim. They want to stop criminals before they become the next victim,” she said, adding that belonging to a CPF was all about looking after each other. Dawid Bothma, Garsfontein CPF chairman, said he had become involved in fighting crime “because someone had to do something about crime in our community”. “When we started we were policing five streets where on average 18 crimes were occurring every two months. But, now two years later, with nearly the entire community involved, crime has decreased by nearly 90 percent in our area.” Bothma said it was about knowing your neighbours. “It is all about communication. Communication between residents and communication between the residents and the police is vital to stopping crime. You have to know your neighbour. You have to know what is happening in your area because if you get this right then you can beat crime.” He added that people also needed to accept responsibility when it came to stopping crime. “People need to realize that by making oneself an easy target they contributed to crime,” he said. Agreeing, Cullinan CPF chairman Rudie Nieuwenhuis said they had been forced to start a CPF because of the number of murders in their community. “Nothing was being done about the murders, so we decided to do something. “Our CPF was started with only five members, but over the past six months, it has grown to over 250 and together we are making a difference. “We have had a impact on crime in the area, simply by being visible, as criminals see us on patrol, which makes them think twice about attacking or robbing a house.” Zacharia Motaung, Gauteng Provincial Community Policing Forum board chairman, said CPFs were vital as they brought order to communities and were a good network that provided police with vital information on what was happening on the ground. “By becoming involved in fighting crime and establishing a strong network, a zero-tolerance approach towards crime is established, making it harder for criminals to operate.” Senior Superintendent Lindela Mashigo said: “CPFs make a difference in combating criminals by bridging the gap between the community and the SAPS. “They promote accountability, monitor effectiveness and efficiency, provide advice, improve service delivery of police, strengthen community partnerships and ensure accountability and transparency.” Gauteng MEC of Community Safety Firoz Cachalia said: “The province and the police desperately need communities to become involved in fighting crime if it is to be brought under control.” SOURCE: Pretoria News

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