While Gardens Neighbourhood Watch may be the “toddlers” among their peers in the City Bowl area, they are making great strides in tackling crime and grime. This month they turn three years old.
Chairman Anthony Rees said their watch – the smallest and youngest neighbourhood watch in the area – was formed because the area had been in a bad state three years ago.
“There were break-ins every night on our streets, it was a nightmare and the rubbish was piled up and the area was neglected by the City as a suburb with green leafy suburbs getting all the help,” he said.
“We became a catchment area for criminals who were using the area as a springboard for crime and it became a running area as the Cape Town Central CID stopped operating at Roeland Street,”he said.
But residents had had enough and started going door-to-door to urge their neighbours to help find a solution.
The residents first tackled grime as they believed it was as sister to crime.
“We hired unemployed people to help clean our streets and do the weeding that had not been done for many years. It took months of solid hard work with neighbours and everyone getting involved to get this place to what it is today,” he said.
Over the past three years, he said, they had managed to sustain funding from small donations from members of the community to pay for a full-time cleaning crew, creating job opportunities for people.
Mr Rees said they were proud of the work they had done over the years and as a result of just cleaning the area, they had seen a decline in criminal activity.
And, he said: “The hide-outs for criminals were discovered and closed down.”
As their operation was formalised, they started implementing regular patrols and had learned to distinguish between the criminal and the homeless who were genuinely destitute.
“There’s a lot of genuine homeless people who have been living here for many years, and there’s a lot of criminal elements that are hiding among the homeless,” he said.
Touching on the challenges that they were facing at the moment, Mr Rees, said there had been an increase in drug activity, which was uncommon when they started the neighbourhood watch.
At the Cape Town Central Community Police Forum meeting this month the watch was praised for the work that they do.
The meeting heard that the neighbourhood watch members went to great lengths to help police bring perpetrators to book.