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