Safety & Security Meeting

A safety and security meeting is to be held at the Sea Vista Community Hall on Friday 21st July and the residents of St Francis are invited to attend a forum where leading members of the South African Police Services, the Kouga Mayor and members of the St Francis Community will provide an update of activities and strategies in our fight against crime.

This is your opportunity to raise concerns and provide input into a community based strategy. The vision is to consolidate resources in the fight against crime; the long term strategy is to make greater St Francis a better and safer place to live.

Included in the high profile delegates who will address the meeting is the Eastern Cape Police Commissioner Major General Liziwe Ntshinga. Also attending are SAPS Cluster Commander – Brigadier J Lebok, SAPS St Francis Station Commander -Captain N Gomoshe, Kouga Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen, St Francis Property Owners – Chairperson Wayne Furphy  and Community Police Forum – Chairperson John Hammond.

It is important that residents make an effort to attend this meeting so as to illustrate in how concerned we as a community are at the state of crime in St Francis. Promises of a new police station were promised years ago but seem to have been forgotten as has the entire infrastructure of policing in St Francis. There is little point in complaining about our safety and security in terms of crime if we don’t make an effort to participate by voicing our concerns and possible solutions.

The meeting will be held at the Sea Vista Community Hall in Steenbras Street, Sea Vista from 10:00am to 12 noon on Friday 21st July.

PLEASE MAKE AN EFFORT TO ATTEND

Reducing crime in St Francis

NW reducing crime in St Francis Bay

Visitors and locals alike may not know that St Francis is under the threat of regular home invasions, sometimes with even the threat of, or actual, violence being  committed. St Francis is also a target of opportunistic crime whether from your home, accommodation establishment, or from parked cars.

Neighbourhood Watch works in close collaboration with the Police and security companies. The Station Commissioner of St Francis Bay Police has made a request to all Greater St Francis residents and visitors to be aware and take the necessary precaution of protecting their own property. There have been several cases where negligence on the part of a visitor or property owner has encouraged theft. The main items targeted are cell phones, laptops, cameras, jewellery, and money. The following tips should assist in this regard:

  • Don’t leave valuable and expensive items visible in your car as they attract potential criminals.
  • Lock your vehicle at all times, even when entering a shop for a quick purchase.
  • Mark your possessions with some form of identification.
  • Lock your vehicle in the garage overnight or park it in the back yard and lock the gates.
  • If your car is not in a garage, park in a well-lit area if possible.
  • Keep your vehicle particulars such as registration, engine number and chassis number on file, but not in your vehicle. It assists the police in the speedy recovery of your vehicle if it is stolen.
  • Lock all doors and windows when leaving premises and don’t leave laptops etc visible or near windows.
  • Take all possible security precautions and set the alarm system when leaving the house.
  • Be alert.

 In recent months a new Neighbourhood Watch has been established in St Francis and needs more volunteers to do patrols at night in addition to the police and security firms of Smhart and Calibre. The new Neighbour Watch patrols have made a significant dent on the number of break-ins but at the moment there are not enough patrols and more volunteers are needed. One patrol of two hours a week is requested, two people per patrol. Volunteers are requested to phone Barry Wild on 082-3679947. Assistance is also requested with the cost of equipment such as strobe lights, decals and other equipment. Barry handles this also.

Sy Francis Neighbourhood Watch

Volunteers manning the Neighbourhood Watch stand outside Spar.

Article & photograch – Yvonne Bosman

Neighbourhood Watch Needs You

Neighbourhood Watch looking for members

Neighbourhood Watch - St Francis BayCrime is on the increase in St Francis Bay and the town is now under the threat of regular HOME INVASIONS with threats, or actual violence being committed. NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH NEEDS YOU as patrol members, and or sponsors.

Neighbourhood Watch has, in other towns, assisted in bringing down crime so Barry Wild has taken the initiative and established one in St Francis Bay.

Neighbourhood Watch will have a hold a “RECRUITATHON” at the Saturday Morning Market this weekend. Look out for the large purpose built display. Supporters (in blue T-shirts with Neighbourhood Watch insignia) will be on hand to answer questions, to encourage people to join as new members, as well as to seek donations from those who for one reason or another cannot patrol.

The reason for all this is because St Francis Bay is now under the threat of regular HOME INVASIONS with threats or actual violence being committed.

Barry says: “There have been FIVE such cases in the last SIX WEEKS. Just imagine being awakened from your sleep to be surrounded by three or four thugs wearing black balaclavas, brandishing knives and threatening you should you fail to conform to their demands.

“In addition to that we have the never-ending morning reports of the latest crimes against property and persons. If not checked, how long before we are in the territory of Rapes and Murders which is sadly the case in other areas of South Africa.”

Some neighbouring towns and villages have well-resourced and equipped Neighbourhood Watches. One close to us is Paradise Beach, which has significantly limited crime in their village. Kenton-on-Sea is another town with an effective Neighbourhood Watch.

“St Francis Bay has a small, but dedicated Neighourhood Watch group, but is seriously lacking in man/woman power to help with the gaps in patrolling shifts. We also seek help with funding. It costs upwards of R1 000 to equip one of our members with all the equipment they need: search lights/roof strobe lights/personal protection equipment etc.”

To join NW is easy. There is NO fee but just a commitment to do one two-hour patrol each week.” Should fuel be a problem contact Barry.

The few stalwart volunteers who do Neighbourhood Watch duties need your support in sharing the load of patrolling. Come to the Morning Market or contact Barry Wild on 082 367 9947 or on thewilds@telkomsa.net

Article by Yvonne Bosman

Spike in Crime

Spike in Crime – Don’t become a victim!

Avoid being the victim of the crime and the court system. Having to appear as a witness / victim of a crime is no cruise on the canals at sunset.

That there has been a spike in crime in St Francis Bay is undeniable and things seem not to be getting better.  The call for volunteers for the Neighbourhood Watch is thus timeous, certainly until the present crime wave is brought under control. Whilst much can be done to stop this wave this will only be possible if all residents play their part, and that is not to say all must join Neighbourhood Watch although a few more volunteers wouldn’t hurt.

We all need to do all we can to secure our own properties by ensuring alarms are properly activated,  protecting open doors with closed security gates on these warm evenings we are enjoying, not leaving valuables visible in vehicles and not walking alone on the beach at night are a start. Clearing bush in around your property and your neighbourhood and reporting those who are not doing likewise. Every little bit helps.

Many will no doubt denigrate SAPS for not doing enough to curb crime and will say it is their job, but let’s be fair. They are understaffed, under resourced and will only become demotivated without the positive support of the community. But worst of all they are not being supported by the judiciary.

Having been the victim of a car break-in way back in June last year where the perpetrators were soon arrested thanks to CCTV not only alerting the resorts security of their presence but also capturing on video, their intrusion. Shut and dried case one would think but no! Since the incident this scribe and a fellow witness have been summoned to court three times since the incident and to date the suspects still have not been brought to book.

On our first court appearance as witnesses the case was postponed as the defence attorney had suffered whiplash. Fair enough these things happen and cannot be predicted. Second appearance the accused had been let out on bail and did not pitch up so a warrant of arrest was issued. And so the case was again postponed. At our third appearance, yesterday,  – you guessed it! Correctional Services failed to deliver the one accused to court and the whereabouts of the second were apparently unknown as the uncertainty lay in whether he was in the clink or roaming the streets on bail.

Spending as much time at the courthouse as I have over the past six or so months has been quite an experience. Not a pleasant one. The summons calls for you to be in court at 9:00 am and failure to attend will have you in contempt and thus no doubt face arrest. So as a law abiding citizen one abides, even being a little early just in case you miss the call and find yourself spending time in the slammer along with those you have come to testify against.

And so the experience begins. The passages are crammed with people, witnesses, family and even accused, out on bail awaiting court to start. But it doesn’t. In the courtroom, courtroom officials sit idly chatting, reading or possibly playing games on their cell phones. Must be games for nobody can be texting friends for 90 minutes. In the crowd you spot and chat with the odd detective you have come to know since your saga started, detectives who are now standing round waiting to give evidence rather than being out in the field solving crimes and arresting criminals.

Over an hour and a half after arriving at court and watching officials move from office to office through crowded passages, loaded with Manilla files and seeming to achieve nothing, the prosecutor calls you. You are one of the lucky ones for that friendly detective knows the prosecutor and manages to have a word in his ear to hasten things up. He, the prosecutor advises you that the accused are not available in court and so you may go but advises you that you will be called to bear witness at a future date. So you leave court some two hours after arriving and court incidentally is still not in session.

So some ten or more hours of attending a trial that hasn’t yet happened, one feels even more the victim. So to avoid not only being victim to the crime, but also a victim of the court system you should rather do all you can to avoid the crime being perpetrated in the fist place.

Lastly! Cape St Francis has been largely spared with far fewer incidences than in St Francis Bay, possibly because pickings are closer to the township in St Francis Bay. But let this not encourage complacency for if pickings become harder to come by, these criminals will quickly move southward.

CCTV makes sense

CCTV makes sense as the way forward to reduce crime

CCTV installation by ELFJudging by the small crowd that gathered at St Francis Links last evening for the CCTV meeting, it appears that crime is not on the minds of local St Francis residents as much as one would have expected. The chitter chatter on Crime Alert Whatsapp* group certainly gave the impression that there is real concern so a bigger crowd would have been expected. One must therefore assume that the opportunity of chatting about crime is the real reason some joined the group rather than taking the crime problem seriously.

The company presenting at the meeting had set up a camera to demonstrate how the system worked but Tuesday is a very quiet night at the Links so there was very little foot traffic. However the little there was certainly did demonstrate the effectiveness enough to see the power of these cameras.  The presenter cited an example of the success of CCTV in Sea Point that has resulted in a 65% drop in crime. He also cited golf estates in Gauteng where it has been used very successfully and showed several application in Hangzhou in China where the equipment is made and where there are some 300000 cameras installed. Hangzhou is the venue for the next G20 Summit.

There is no doubt that CCTV can reduce crime but it requires the buy-in of the community.  Already several areas of St Francis and Cape St Francis successfully use CCTV and this scribe has first-hand experience of how effective it can be when at 4:00am one morning a month or so ago the CCTV cameras in Cape St Francis Resort picked up intruders and alerted security. The end result was that security descended on the thieves who were busy helping themselves to the content of my car and although they managed to evade capture, the CCTV footage was used to identify the perpetrators and SAPS were able to arrest them within a few hours.

For CCTV to be really effective it really is all about the numbers, the more cameras the better the coverage, the less opportunity for criminals. Last week we discussed neighbourhood watches and there is no reason why CCTV cannot be deployed by street committees. Why not a system that can detect potential crime activity without having humans driving round in the dead of night, possibly endangering life?  during last night’s presentation it was discussed how even a single street can deploy a CCTV system and monitor it themselves without connecting to a security control room. So advanced is the equipment these days that a smart phone can can be used to monitor activity on a camera, even multiple cameras and act as a streets own “Control Centre”. In fact everyone in the particular street or area can monitor the camera activity and act on suspicious activity.

St Francis Today is going to undertake to meet with John Hammond, the driving force behind the introduction of CCTV, and see if we can expand on the concept in the coming days and relay the information to our readers of how to go about forming these street groups. The more the participation the lower the cost and ELF Rentals, who presented their equipment last night, rents out the equipment by amortising the cost over five years during which time they remain fully responsible for the maintenance of the equipment.

*As a footnote:

Possibly many of those who joined the Whatsapp group Crime Alert will be rethinking their Whatsapp usage if they are on cell phone contracts. In spite of many thinking Whatsapp is free, it is anything but. Those who connect only on Wi-Fi are okay and those who pay as you go will be spared for you would run out of airtime and probably wondered why. But those on cell phone contracts may get a rather big surprise when they see their data charges for the some cell companies charge a whopping R1 per meg for out of bundle data.

Please don’t misinterpret that we are against the Crime Alert initiative for we are not and if it had been used for that purpose it would have been a really effective service. Sadly the chatter made it not only impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff but it also started costing money in bandwidth charges for those not on Wi-Fi because of the excessive data being transmitted

To see just how much data each of your Whatsapp groups use, go and read this article. Seeing that data used on this seemingly ‘free’ application will surprise you.

http://technology.onehowto.com/article/how-to-know-how-many-megabytes-whatsapp-uses-437.html

Neighbourhood Watch or CCTV

Is CCTV a better solution than Neighbourhood Watch?

CCTV or Neighbourhood watchThere is little doubt that in recent weeks crime has escalated throughout St Francis. Concerned residents have started a Whatsapp group that went viral in the first day it was launched and talk seems now to centre on crime rather than the weather. It would seem in spite of their very best efforts SAPS are doing their very best but we must that they are understaffed and have too few vehicles to patrol the huge area under their jurisdiction. Our security companies Calibre and SMHart are working tirelessly in responding to crime activity but it must be accepted that their task is really to service their clients, not the community. That they do help the community at large must not go unnoticed they should be thanked for their efforts in supplementing the police efforts which truly is beyond their call of duty considering they are at times, risking their lives for going that extra mile.

There has been some talk of forming Neighbourhood Watch groups to combat this increased crime in the greater St Francis. The roots of neighbourhood crime prevention, including Neighbourhood Watch, can be traced back to a Chicago School and its focus on the relationship between the social environment of neighbourhood and crime in the late 1960s.

The concept ticks all the right boxes and there are many very effective watch groups operating in South Africa. But there are many failed initiatives for unless the community is fully behind the concept they are sadly doomed to failure. Having been a member of a group in the eighties was initially great fun and being teamed up with the then mayor of the town gave us certain privileges including a ‘blue light’. Unfortunately as the weeks of getting up at midnight, or staying up to “patrol the empty streets” (some oldies will recall that line from the days before television in the popular radio series ‘Squad Cars’) soon took toll on many of the members. Work, travel and family commitments saw the group dwindle until there was only a handful left to do patrols. Inevitably through lack of personnel, interest, support and motivation the group disbanded.

But personnel and motivation aside! Consider the cost of those patrolling not only their valuable time and time away from their family but also the cost of petrol and vehicle costs incurred whilst they drive the area night after night. And being working people normally, there are no patrols during the day when crime does occur.

Some months ago John Hammond set up a meeting at St Francis Links for a demonstration of CCTV equipment. No doubt some left the meeting muttering over the cost but in reality it is probably the least expensive way of securing an area, particularly  high risk areas that are regularly targeted by criminals.

Another meeting is being arranged at St Francis Links on the 30th August at 17:00 (5:00pm) where a group called Elf will be presenting a possible solution to the costs.

Below is a press release from John about what the meeting.

Greetings,

As part of the investigation into a St Francis CCTV solution we have, with the assistance of Wayne Furphy, chairman St Francis Property Owners, made contact with a company called Elf Rentals based in Port Elizabeth. This group are major systems integrator to the security industry, in short they design, supply and maintain any technology required for the management of security around any form of estate, village or town.

Elf are not in competition with any local armed response service providers and in most cases local service providers such as Smhart & Calibre will welcome the community injection of technology to enable them to perform their duties better.

The majority of Elf’s work is on a rental basis where they fund the capital off their own balance sheet, install the hardware and insure and maintain it, where the community enter into a rental agreement with the HOA/entity to recoup the capital and fund the servicing costs.

This model works really well with estates or towns on a fixed levy structure where raising capital via a special levy is a challenge. The client has a fixed monthly expense and a guarantee that the equipment works.

Elf currently looks after 60 odd estates in the Fourways, Lone Hill & Midrand areas as well as several golfing Estates, most of the high end estates in PE which is HQ of the group.

We have invited Elf to present an overview of their offer to the community as another step in the gathering of information on a St Francis CCTV solution.

We invite members of the community / representative of groups/ estates or communities to attend.

Please feel free to give your local Community Police Sectors a call to discuss any element of how we can make St Francis a safer and better place to live.

Regards

John Hammond

Meeting Date: 30th August
Day & Time: Tuesday 17h00
Venue: St Francis Links – TBC

RSVP Essential for Catering  –  Via email: cpf.stfrancis@gmail.com