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 is growing

Neighbourhood Watch is making a difference

Neighbourhood Watch is making a difference in the community and this weekend, a potential robbery was averted.

Neighbourhood watch in St Francis Bay

An observer on patrol noticed a suspicious character hiding in the bushes. A security company was called and a two-man response team arrived quickly. The character was in possession of a long screwdriver and a pocket full of stones but could give no explanation for being there at that time of night in that vicinity and with those items. He was in an area where several cars were parked overnight. It was obvious that he was a man on a mission but Neighbourhood Watch frustrated him. As no further information could be obtained from him, he was escorted out of the area, and taken to Sea Vista.

Barry Wild, who is heading up Neighbourhood Watch, believes that the man was caught as there were two patrols on duty that night increasing the number of eyes observing. It would be an enormous help of there were even more people prepared to patrol. Residents have said that it is a good feeling to see the orange light blinking through the windows at night, and two separate groups of people coming home late waved and expressed their appreciation for the patrols.

At a meeting earlier in the week, Captain Johan du Toit commented that the patrols had made an impact, especially over the past couple of months and he expressed his appreciation for the patrols. The local police station is hampered by monetary and man-power constraints and Neighbourhood Watch helps enormously.

Visible policing is important and just two hours once a week will assist in keeping down crime. Barry says: “Our patrollers give of their own time and expense to keep you warm and safe in your beds. Is it fair that only a handful of us are prepared to this to keep the village safe? Please consider joining us in our efforts to keep you safe.”

If you can help in any way, either patrolling or in monetary terms or equipment, please contact Barry on 082 376 9947 or thewilds@telkomsa.net

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch - St Francis BayNeighbourhood Watch RECRUITATHON

Neighbourhood Watch will have a large purpose built display at the Saturday Market this weekend  and supporters will be on parade in the Neighbourhood Watch livery to help people with questions about Neighbourhood Watch and to encourage and recruit new members as well as seek donations from those who for one reason or another cannot patrol.

The few stalwart volunteers who do Neighbourhood Watch duties need your support in sharing the load of patrolling.

 

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.

Neighbourhood Watch

Neighbourhood Watch

Late yesterday I received an SMS from a close friend asking me to attend the neighbourhood watch meeting being held at St Francis Bay Golf club at 6:00pm. I immediately replied that I would try but for personal reasons probably wouldn’t attend. A return SMS asking that I please attend I guess motivated me into a change of heart as and so it was off the golf club for the second night in a row having attended the DA AGM the previous evening.
When a similar spike in crime as to what we are presently experiencing beset St Francis in August this year I was invited, more formerly, to attend a meeting to initiate a neighbourhood watch. Following that meeting I published article titled (read Neighbourhood Watch or CCTV) in St Francis Today.

It would appear that a group of volunteers did form a watch and according to comment early on in the yesterday’s meeting, it did serve as a deterrent to criminals resulting in a decrease in crime. As stated in the August article the concept ticks all the right boxes and there are many very effective watch groups operating successfully in South Africa. But sadly the reality of so many neighbourhood watch groups is that interest wains rather rapidly and one by one volunteers fall by the wayside leaving a small group of committed diehards to carry the flag.

Initially it seemed the purpose of the meeting was to motivate for volunteers to join up and form groups that would ‘patrol the lonely streets at night’ but somewhere after an unconvincing start where nobody seemed to certain of what to say next, John Hammond somewhat reluctantly at first, spoke up and got the meeting on track by inviting both SAPS Captain Gomoshe and Warrant Office van Heerden to address the meeting. They gave some insight on the state of crime and the problems facing SAPS as with so many state entities being hindered not only by budget cuts but also by bureaucracy and red tape. The Captain was confident that things were about to change once a SAPS General, due to visit St Francis in the near future had been to visit the station.

After a long discussion where some asked on statistics of SAPS  personnel and other topics, Greg Christie thankfully stepped in and stopped a dialogue that was going nowhere by pointing out that without facts on how SAPS deployed personnel based on population, not much could be done to motivate for more police.

One member of the audience then took the floor, apologies I left the meeting early and was unable to ascertain his name, brought up interesting information on nearby holiday town, Plettenberg Bay. After experiencing similar crime waves to what we are now seeing, Plett installed some 100 CCTV cameras. Crime, according to the speaker has dropped dramatically.

On August 30th, John Hammond set up a meeting at St Francis Links which only a handful of people attended. The purpose of the meeting was to see a demonstration on the benefits of CCTV. Again St Francis Today published a post on that meeting (CCTV makes sense) and as Hammond commented last evening, the St Francis Property Owners (SFPO) board is actively looking at ways to finance installation of CCTV initially in ‘crime hotspots’ and eventually expanding to cover most of St Francis.

By way of interest, several of the gated communities effectively use CCTV and in a recent incident where this scribe’s car was broken into, CCTV prevented the perpetrators stealing nothing but a pair of binoculars, which were soon and the CCTV footage captured led to the arrest of a suspect a few hours later.

Which brings up another matter raised by Mr Hammond, that of how unfortunately the justice and correctional services are the major problems regarding crime by either not prosecuting unless a watertight case against a suspect is in place or releasing suspects out on bail only for them to return to their community and continue their criminal activities. Please be aware this is not something the police have control over and it must frustrate them as much as it does us.

Finally a little gripe!

The St Francis Property Owners board were criticised for not having a representative at the meeting was rather unfair for several reasons. Firstly did they actually receive an invite? Had it not been the SMS from a friend asking me to attend I would not have been unaware of the event for I never saw it advertised. Secondly there was a wind farm function on at the same time so considering that the wind farms in the Kouga district contribute some R40million a year into the upliftment of the Kouga community, would their time not be better spent networking with those who can and are making a difference and possibly motivate that some of that money come st Francis’ way.

And lastly, was the purpose of the meeting intended  not to attract volunteers to “prowl the empty streets” by way of forming a neighbourhood watch? If this was the purpose of the meeting is there an expectation then that these SFPO board members, who are already doing a huge amount of work with the “SAVING ST FRANCIS” initiative now also expected to volunteer to spend even more time driving the streets at night? These board members who are retired business men give up countless hours of their time to say nothing of their generous financial contributions to the Saving St Francis funding.

If every resident did their part and made whatever contribution they could afford, be it monthly or even once off, maybe St Francis residents would not have to be asked to “prowl the empty streets”. That there are presently only some 150 paid up members of the residents portion of SFPO is an indication of lassitude that exists and rather than boosting the profits of Caltex and further damaging the ozone layer, joining the SFPO would surely better serve the community, not only in reducing crime by installing CCTV but also by having finances to improve the roads, the beach and so many other services that need urgent attention. Membership is just R450 a year (pensioners pay R300) and if you want to do good by contributing rather than complaining maybe take a step in the right direction. You can sign up for membership at

http://stfrancispropertyowners.co.za/the-association/membership/member/

And should you be able to contribute more to helping the community either financially or in kind, why not join the St Francis Property Owners Non Profit Company (NPC). To see those making a real contribution to ‘Saving St Francis’ visit
http://stfrancispropertyowners.co.za/saving-st-francis/st-francis-property-owners-npc/npc-members/