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Call to allow neighbourhood, farm watches

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‘With the police now focussing on other areas, it means that rural areas are currently unprotected. Criminals know this and are abusing the situation.’

Many city residents have joined the national call to the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, to allow neighbourhood and farm watches.

FF Plus leader, Pieter Groenewald, said on Tuesday that the disconcerting increase in criminal activities makes it a matter of urgency to allow neighbourhood and farm watches to start functioning normally again to strengthen the hand of the police force in fighting crime.

 “The FF Plus made this appeal to President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday  in response to the President’s weekly newsletter in which he expressed his concern about the level of crime.”

Groenewald said the party found it incomprehensible that the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, “did not want to accept help from neighbourhood and farm watches while they function as the eyes and ears of the police and there is a good working relationship between them and the police”.

 He pointed out that the lockdown regulations made provision for formal security companies to continue functioning, but not for neighbourhood and farm watches.

“The sharp increase in the looting of schools is also a great cause for concern According to the Minister of Education, Angie Motshekga, 78 incidents occurred nationwide.”

Groenewald said that the party was worried that farm attacks may possibly increase as rural safety structures and/or farm watches played a significant role in preventing such incidents and also make it more difficult for attackers and criminals to flee the scene of a crime.

 “There is already an increase in livestock theft and the theft of grain products still standing in the fields. Much of the police force’s energy and time is spent on enforcing the measures that were implemented to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Thus, the police force needs all the help it can get.”

This call was echoed by the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa (TLU SA), which pointed out that criminals did not heed the lockdown regulations, and farmers were increasingly the victims of their transgressions.

 “There is an apparent rise in the theft of agricultural products, such as crop and stock theft, while the increase of cable theft in some areas are also frustrating farmers’ production,” Henk van de Graaf, the chairperson of TLU SA’s Northern region, said.

 “What is of further concern is the explicit prohibition of farm guards and CPF’s to continue with their regular patrols and crime prevention actions by the minister of police,” he stated.

“With the police now focussing on other areas, it means that rural areas are currently unprotected. Criminals know this and are abusing the situation.”

Van de Graaf said it was worrying that the police prioritised persecuting people trying to buy alcohol or tobacco products, but did almost nothing to police the criminals threatening food security.

 “Farmers are advised to increase the vigilance on their farms. The power of farm guards lies in the cooperation between roleplayers, effective communication, covering more significant areas than just their own farms, as well as patrolling public roads – which are often used as escape routes. Criminals welcome these desolate areas.”

He added that after the immense drought and the paralysing effect of foot and mouth disease on the agricultural sector, farmers could not afford uncontrolled theft of their products. 

“Farmers are starting to view their farms as disaster areas and will have to implement emergency measures against any suspicious trespassing or movement on their farms,” he warned.  

Local social media groups have also pointed to an increase in crime in residential areas in Kimberley, with a resultant call for pressure to be mounted to allowed neighbourhood watches to continue.

“In Carters Glen, residents’ homes are being burgled every night. People need to urge for neighbourhood watches to be allowed to patrol. The police are busy in the daytime, they also need to rest,” one residents stated.

Another pointed out that neighbour watches should be considered essential services. “We are living in a country where criminals do not have any respect for the police.”

“Even though we are supposed to be in lockdown, there are always people walking around in the streets, watching the houses and looking for an opportunity to steal,” another resident stated.

Last week the MEC of Education, Mac Jack, expressed concern about the number of schools in the province that had been burgled.

He stated that in total 26 schools had been affected and all the incidents had been reported to the police.