Community participation makes combating crime possible.
As a community we are made up of many different races, cultures, languages and belief systems. The one thing that unites us all, is that no-one wants crime.
We all agree that the effect crime has on the environment can be devastating both in the short as well as the long term. Yet unless we are organized, and have workable systems in place, the reality is that criminals will use this disorganization to their own benefit.
The problem is not insurmountable if it is approached on a small scale, as in the case of a block watch.
Here, adjoining neighbors agree amongst themselves to stay connected with each other via a Whatsapp group. In addition, they honestly assess their weak points and come up with solutions that both keep them out of harms way as well as assisting the police or security companies as to the location of a fleeing perpetrator.
Read - Real Life Situation Where Disorganization Worked in Favor of the Criminal.
One sunny afternoon in a Kempton Park Ext2 Street, a new Neighborhood Watch member heard a shout coming from next door. We will call her Mrs A and her property House No 1, she walked out into her courtyard to see where the commotion was coming from and was amazed to observe the following.
Two strange men were attempting to climb over the palisade fence that separated her neighbors front and back yard. (Lets call this house No 2) In addition her neighbors child (Youngster No 2) was standing at the bedroom window. Which Mrs A could see from her courtyard.
Most remarkably was the fact that both men were attached to a bicycle that was stuck on top of the fence.
Being separated from the neighbors house by a prefab wall she could only see Youngster No 2 in the window, the tops of the men's heads and the bicycle.
She shouted for her own children to bring her cell phone and the radio. Whilst this happened her eyes moved to the courtyard door and away from the scene. At the same time she remembered her cell battery was flat, then she saw her child was carrying it's own cell phone. She shouted at the child to call the police. Then she shouted "stop" at the two men.
However only one man stopped. (The man who was then in the process of climbing over the palisade) The other already in House No 2's backyard jogged across the yard and carefully climbed over the palisade into the backyard of the house behind the neighbor and disappeared never to be seen again.
This was observed because she gripped the top of the prefab and managed to get her eyes high enough to see this. All the while worried that the remaining stranger might approach her. (The neighbors property being higher than her own. The wall was lower on that side than it was on her side.
Needless to say during these brief few second not a single call made it through to a security company or SAPS. Why? because Mrs A had never taught her children in how to quickly alert the authorities. Or what to say if they ever had to.
So what had happened?
A man dressed in blue workday overalls had noticed a bicycle standing outside at the back of the property on the other side of House No 2. (Lets say this house was called House No 3) The bicycle was hidden from street view so it can be presumed that this man was climbing through properties. He was what we call "a jumper". The owner of the bicycle was at home but never saw the bicycle get taken and so did not raise the alarm.
The jumper then took the bicycle down the driveway towards the street (we presume that had he gone over House No 3's back wall he would have been observed by the houses occupants.
When in line with the streets front gardens, the jumper decided to climb into House No 2's garden rather than over the fence into the street. He then did this, lifting the bicycle over the palisade.
It was at that moment that another man who lived directly across from House No 2 and 3 (we will call him the Good Samaritan) just happened to be standing at his gate and saw the bicycle get lifted over. As this man was a full time security guard he was in no doubt as to what he was witnessing.
He shouted and ran across the street, but he was cut off from the jumper by House No 2's front palisade. So he too jumped the palisade gaining access to No 2's front garden. He raced across to intercept. The jumper having seen the Good Samaritan coming had reached the palisade separating the front from the back, had balanced the bicycle onto the top of the palisade and was in the process of climbing over the fence himself. However he had a knife which he swung at the Good Samaritan and succeeding in cutting the Good Samaritans palm.
The Good Samaritan backed away and the jumper got over, but when the jumper gripped the bicycle the Good Samaritan gripped it as well. The jumper let go of the bicycle and made towards the back of the property. The Good Samaritan now wiser to the jumper's MO also began climbing over the palisade, still in pursuit.
During this Youngster No 2 was at the window shouting at them and in the process drawing Mrs A's attention. Mrs A then walked into her courtyard and you know the rest.
When Mrs A shouted stop, she only succeeded in stopping the Good Samaritan a law abiding citizen and the only person in the incident authorized by law to apprehend a criminal.
This situation was never going to have turned out any differently to what it did. Mrs A had not taught her children on what to do. Mrs A had not expected something like this in broad daylight. Mrs A did not know who the Good Samaritan was and so did not distinguish between him and the jumper.
Had Mrs A and the Good Samaritan met at a block watch they would have known each other. At the very least the Good Samaritan could have shouted to Mrs A what he needed her to do or shouted that he was in pursuit. Thus affording himself the freedom to continue the pursuit.
Had Mrs A taken the time to build up a whatsap group with the house behind House No 2 and its immediate neighbors she could have alerted them and the likelyhood of the jumper being again spotted would have gone from zero chance to at least a chance. Because lets face it, not every neighborhood has a Good Samaritan who is prepared to risk themselves to pursue a criminal.
Had Mrs A and her adjoining neighbors created a predefined system so that a) long texts no longer needed to be typed (wasting time) and b) while residents keep an eye on the jumpers movements a pre-designated resident alerts security companies and SAPS.
The chances of the jumper being apprehended would have gone from zero to at least a chance.
What happened after the Crook Got Away
The Good Samaritans hand would heal. the knife had not cut deep and no muscles were damaged and the bicycle was returned to its rightful owner. Thanks and gratitude were exchanged and the story was retold to other concerned neighbors who had come out to see what was causing the commotion. Then everyone went back inside, back to the way they were before, only now they were aware of yet another brazen attempt at separating them from their property. Another incident on their doorstep. Another reason to feel unhappy and unsafe.
Crime reduces when communities form. Working together to create and maintain crime fighting systems results in higher rates of apprehended criminals.
If you would like to start or join an existing block watch, contact us and we will assist you with the process.
If you have any hard earned suggestions or tips that can help make us less susceptible to crime, please post a comment or email us.