Potential criminals feel uncomfortable in neighbourhoods where people care and are aware. This was the message from Charl Viljoen, community liaison officer in the City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Directorate. By keeping your communities working you keep crime out. Nagging helps. And a community nagging and working together can turn an unsafe neighbourhood into a safe neighbourhood. You just have to start with the small things.
“We go to prison each night while criminals are free. I find that offensive. That is why I am on a crusade to turn things around. This is your city. Take it back,” he said. Charl in the blue shirt (Photo on RHS) encourages people to take note of the phone numbers of departments that have the responsibility for security and maintenance.
Mr Viljoen was talking at a workshop to neighbourhood watch and community members at the King of Kings Baptist Church Centre in Sunnydale on Saturday May 26. He is part of the City’s Neighbourhood Watch Task Team which was launched in recent years, based on work done by Guardian Angels, to assist neighbourhood watches.
“The squeaky wheel gets the grease always,” he said. Why is Sea Point cleaner than Gugulethu? Because people complain. “In Gugulethu, no one holds you accountable.” His mission is to ensure that people be good neighbours and hold others accountable. After one of his courses, he joined 130 people in Nyanga, each with a clipboard, who walked through the streets noting what was wrong – and later nagging, in the relevant way, of course.
Keeping your communities working keeps crime out, he says. Crime flourishes in communities which are not cared for. This is the “broken window” syndrome.
“Crime is not an act. It’s a process, more like a tree that grows from a garden. Crime starts when the first person picks up a rock and throws it through a window. The act of throwing the rock and breaking the window is not the problem. The act of not fixing the window is the problem.
“The broken window transmits the message: ‘In our community we don’t care if you rob someone. We don’t care about each other.’”
Soon there would be public drinking in front of the house with the broken window. “Even the police are unlikely to tell them to leave” whereas if they were outside a cared for building, the police were more likely to pay attention.
This, said Mr Viljoen, was typically followed by sex workers.
“Within 24 hours you will have drugs in the area,” he said.
The next step was gangs who make their money through drugs and prostitution.
“Gang violence is directly linked to that first stone through that window,” he said
Mr Viljoen gave examples of how adding graffiti (and removing graffit) encourages (and discourages) crime. Graffiti – and not art on a wall for which one has permission – is a deliberate act. “I have yet to see a man walking down the road with paint who trips and accidently spreads a message on a wall. Graffiti says no one cares. It says that the whole community neglected (a) to stop it and (b) to remove it.
“Areas where there is graffiti is not only not under control but uncontrollable. You can read the body language of the city, you can literally read the writing on the wall. The writing is saying, don’t walk there at night.”
Graffiti is done in areas where no one is watching, or where no one cares. He said that studies showed that shops near areas where there was graffiti were more likely to be robbed.
“Criminals are like cockroaches. They go where it’s dark and where there’s food. It’s my theory and it hasn’t been disproved yet!” he said.
Graffiti and broken windows were one of the signs of disorder. Others were businesses in distress, empty parks and vandalised phones.
Mr Viljoen’s message is to start small. Combat the graffiti and don’t allow crime to grow.
And if there is already crime? Choose a small target and concentrate all your resources there. Everybody could get together and complain about one thing. You all write, you all phone, you all e-mail. If there is a drug house, choose that pavement to have your (legal) street party, street cleanups, church services, constant high visibility neighbourhood watch patrols, bright posters saying the neighbourhood is keeping an eye on the area. Drug houses can only exist if the customers come and if the customers feel uncomfortable enough not to come, that is half the battle won.
“Start small. Adopt a block. Focus on a small, winnable situation,” said Mr Viljoen.
For more information contact Charl Viljoen on Charl.Viljoen@capetown.gov.za.
By Michelle Saffer. This article first appeared in the False Bay Echo of 24 May 2012
Who to Nag to keep our Neighbourhoods Clean and Operational
City of Cape Town Contact Information
Service Delivery & Complaints Centre: firstname.lastname@example.org 0860 103 089 (07h30 – 17h00)
Public Emergency Communications Centre (PECC)
107 (from a landline) 021 480 7700 (cell or other phone) @pecc107 (on Twitter)
31220 SMS or 0800 220 440 (Toll free) or email@example.com
C3 Notifications for complaints that are not resolved
31373 SMS (160 characters maximum) Or Fax 021 400 5864 or email Dirk.firstname.lastname@example.org
Graffitti – Michelle de Wet
072 152 5963 Michelle.email@example.com
Michelle appreciates photos of graffiti to build up her library of “tags”.
32211 SMS Crime Line
0800 222 771 Metal Theft
021 400 6224 Abandoned Vehicles
021 812 4444 broken Traffic Signals
0800 872 201 Homeless people
021 424 7715 Cigarette Stompie Hotline
SPCA Directorate 021 7004158/9 or 083 326 1604 firstname.lastname@example.org
Cart Horse Protection Association Cart Horse Protection Association 082 656 6599 (Inspector Diana) email@example.com
Liquor, Vice and Problem Buildings firstname.lastname@example.org or FAX 021 918 7434
For information about buildings housing criminal activities
Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD)
021 949 8800 Tel 021 949 3196 FAX 082 896 8483 CELL Handles complaints about SAPS
City Ombudsman 021 4005487 TEL 021 400 5952 FAX
DOCS – Community Police Forum Complaints (Dept of Community Safety)
email@example.com or 086 746 6989 FAX
Community Warning System (Private initiative not run by City of CT)
For info or to register go to www.capecellalert.co.za
076 123 5959 SMS name, area
082 568 6535 send alerts
Cape Cell Alert is a dynamic, instant method of reporting suspicious behaviour in your neighbourhood to all your neighbours with one SMS to one number: 0825686535. The concept is based on STRENGTH IN NUMBERS – the more people registered on the system in a specific neighbourhood, the safer that neighbourhood becomes.
How much does the service cost?
Minimum R35-00pm per cell number registered. Some feel the service is worth more and voluntary contribute more. Pensioners R20-00pm (60yrs/older)
Payments can be on a monthly, quarterly or half yearly debit order system.