Communities across South Africa have seen the real difference it makes when people work together to keep their suburbs safe.
“We work with neighbourhood watches and other community organisations across the country, and have seen firsthand how these communities have generally become safer,” says Charnel Hattingh, National Marketing and Communications Manager at Fidelity ADT.
There are two basic types of community safety efforts, she explains, with varying levels of formality and organisational elements. They have one thing in common; they depend on our support and active participation.
“One of the basic forms is when neighbours in a street or on a street block share contact details with each other and set up a local WhatsApp group. By getting to know your neighbours, you will easily be able to spot anything that is out of place. Your neighbours are often the first people to see if something is wrong at your home,” says Hattingh.
Some communities have been able to set up more formalized structures, such as neighbourhood watches. In this case, volunteers are organised to do street patrols, normally with the cooperation of local armed response companies and the SAPS.
But not all communities have the energy or appetite to set up a formal neighbourhood watch, says Hattingh.
“If you don’t have a community or neighbourhood watch, we suggest setting up regular meetings with the local SAPS to workshop ideas on how you could assist them in keeping the area safe. It could be as simple as just sharing tips and advice and having a reliable list of contact details for each other. The point is – we all have a part to play and we simply can no longer be idle bystanders when it comes to our own safety.”
If you have just moved into a new suburb, she recommends making the effort to meeting the people who live next door as soon as possible and sharing contact details with them. They could also provide useful advice on existing community safety organisations in the area.
Hattingh says it is also very important to introduce your children to your neighbours. You can for instance agree to keep an eye on each other’s children when they are playing in the garden. Teach your children to go over to one of your neighbours if they are home alone and feel unsafe.
“The men and women of the South African Police Services simply cannot be everywhere all the time. Neighbours that care about each other and become active participants in the safety of their suburb can make a massive difference,” says Hattingh.