Chapman’s Peak Neighbourhood Watch
Back in 2006, crime in this neighbourhood had been steadily increasing for some time and seemed to be spiralling out of control. It was clear that policing services were hopelessly inadequate and that the socio-economic drivers of crime were not about to be resolved. This community had been seeing considerable growth, with many new residents, and with a few exceptions, community organisations were poorly supported, and struggling.
A few concerned individuals finally took it upon themselves to canvass door-to-door, and it was in a conversation at my gatepost that I found myself challenged to get involved in doing something about our neighbourhood, if I really did want my children growing up in a safe and healthy environment.
It was not an easy, or a natural step to take. If anything, I had habitually seen myself as an outsider, cynical about mainstream society, and particularly about those I perceived as do-gooders and busybodies interfering with my privacy! I also had a perception of “neighbourhood watch types” as being wannabe Rambos, nostalgic for the bad old days. The brave and determined soul who had come to my gate, however, was nothing like that and he put it quite bluntly: If I knew crime was a problem but wasn’t prepared to make any effort, why should anyone else?
So I went along to a meeting, and when we realised the whole initiative would be dead in the water unless someone became chairperson, I put up my hand. What we did agree though, was that this would be about COMMUNITY first.
What this meant, was that we would develop safety and security in our neighbourhood by improving how we function as a community, and by making participation in, and support for efforts to do this, as accessible and sustainable as possible. We limited our area of responsibility to purely the Chapmans Peak Village, we developed connected groups of local neighbours who could look out for each other, and we placed emphasis on maximising membership numbers, so everyone was connected, over any requirement for funding or participation.
We quickly learned that the number of individuals prepared to go out on patrols is relatively limited, and soon exhausted, but many more were prepared to make financial, or other contributions, as long as we could justify it.
Thus, our key strategies have involved the development of systemic and community-focussed approaches, emphasising both safety and security, and have included the following:
- The development of collective bargaining processes, resulting in service-level agreements with security companies, that ensure minimum standards and the constant presence of dedicated vehicles in the area.
- Licence Plate Recognition Cameras linked to a regional network, that identifies suspect vehicles, and alerts user networks to their presence.
- A steadily growing system of analytic cameras that identify the presence of suspicious intruders.
- Small local WhatsApp groups to link direct neighbours, with representatives linked to a central coordinator.
- A network of handheld radio users that at its height included more than half of all households.
- A Response Team of volunteers who can be rapidly activated, to cover entry and exit points as well as provide support to SAPS and security officers.
- Tracking capabilities involving specialised expertise as well as trained tracking dogs.
- Liaison with SAPS and CPF bodies.
- Collaboration with, and support for other community organisations.
- The organisation and funding of dedicated intervention teams during severe crime surges.
In plain numbers, the results of these efforts speak for themselves. Although data from the early years is incomplete, some will recall a survey in 2006 revealing more than 40 incidents in a month! Since we have been keeping stats, the situation has improved from highs of 58 incidents in 2013 and 50 in 2017, to as few as 8 in 2020 and 12 last year (despite broader reporting networks and a significant lowering of the threshold for what gets reported as an incident), with marked reductions in completed crimes vs attempts.
CPNW has also played a key role in: Improving beach security, putting speed bumps on our roads, coordinating emergency responses to the 2015 fire, developing preparedness for future fires and civil emergencies, finding missing persons, identifying vulnerable individuals in the community, and providing essential assistance, as well as refurbishing a dilapidated city building that was becoming a crime hazard, and turning it into a thriving Community Centre.
These efforts, together with those of a host of Community Associations, brought together by the NRRA, have resulted in what is the remarkable transformation of this neighbourhood, into what can only be described as one of the most desirable places to live in this country. Our beaches have become cleaner, our roads safer and more attractive, with beautiful verges and walkways, tended by community members. We support a large equestrian community, a beautiful Common and a Nature Sanctuary, with local businesses not only thriving but providing a growing range of economic and leisure opportunities right on our doorstep. The fact that this has happened over a space of time when, both nationally, and globally, we have been witnessing a somewhat frightening decline, is testament not only to the power of community, but to what can be done when we focus our actions at the local level!
If ever there was a time in this country, when we need to redouble our efforts, and at least preserve, if not continue to grow, the wonderful atmosphere of this neighbourhood – it is right now!
But… We need you!
Sadly though, the number of individuals driving such efforts (across all community groups) remains a tiny percentage of the entire community. We persevere, sometimes for decades on end, not simply because the idea of allowing this wonderful dream to go to rot is too awful to contemplate, but also because, by and large, this kind of collective effort brings out the best in so many of us, and it is always a special privilege to work with such people!
We all do get tired however, and attrition of leadership is a reality across the board in organisations. So we urgently need new blood and if ever there was a time in this country when we have needed to upgrade our preparedness for any number of crises, that time is now.
Nobody is asking you to suddenly take over a massive leadership role, simply to come more on board and share some of the tasks. We are asking you to step up and get more involved right now, the evidence that community involvement does work to make your daily life better, is all around you! So, if you are not prepared to look after your own community, why should anyone else??
Annual General Meeting
Please come to our AGM: 21 November 2022; Noordhoek Community Centre: 1830 for 1900.
Please consider joining our committee or one of our smaller, dedicated teams that focus on different aspects of our work!
Dr John Parker