Much of the community of Greenpoint enjoyed a safe and peaceful festive season thanks to the efforts of the Bittersoet crime-fighting organisation.
MUCH of the community of Greenpoint enjoyed a safe and peaceful festive season thanks to the efforts of the Bittersoet crime-fighting organisation.
The organisation was established during a community meeting in 2022 as an intervention to fight crime and deal with social issues.
It has now become a household name in Greenpoint after helping to make the streets safe.
The formative community meeting in 2022 was triggered by a spate of break-ins and gang fights and an increase in drug trafficking in Greenpoint.
Bittersoet now performs a number of crime-prevention activities such as conducting patrols, helping monitor compliance at taverns and businesses, curbing gangsterism and partnering with the police during roadblocks and patrols.
It also recently incorporated a “social responsibility” initiative and is “ploughing back into the community”.
The idea for the organisation was originally presented to the community by its founder member, Pastor Daniel Kruger of the Pentecost church.
According to Kruger, he saw a desperate need for the community to take action against crime after the church was broken into and everything was stolen.
He explained that on the day when he went to report the break-in, he had a disagreement with the police after he pointed out the suspects but felt they were wasting time with “red tape”.
“I felt like they were wasting time because I was positive about where we would find the stolen goods,” said Kruger.
“We followed up on a tip-off with some volunteers from the community, to confront the suspect, who returned some of the goods a few days later. That is what motivated the formation of a neighbourhood watch, where the community pledged to work with the police.
“We had a series of engagements with community members whose hearts were beating equally for this initiative. Following various suggestions, the name ‘Bittersoet’ (bitter-sweet), with the motto ‘Deur dik en dun’ (through thick and thin), was agreed upon.
“It carries a strong meaning that you get the bitter side and the sweet side of things,” elaborated the pastor.
The organisation consists of 23 active patrollers and was registered as a non-profit company (NPC) last year.
Besides its work with the police, the organisation has been further lauded for its partnership with the Northern Cape Department of Education and its visibility at schools in an effort to curb gangsterism.
This follows various gang-related clashes among learners from both Greenpoint Primary and High schools, which also caused disruptions in the community.
An active patroller pointed out that the intervention at the schools is what earned them the trust of the community, as the community felt that the police were losing the battle against gangsterism.
“We pray for the perpetrators by implementing what the Bible preaches: ‘don’t spare the rod’. That made a huge difference and instilled discipline and stability, more especially among the young people,” said the patroller.
“The community has even started to call us before they call the police to the scene. Although we do not encourage that because we are not there to take over the jobs of the police or compete with them.”
The patroller further highlighted that they have a “harmonious relationship” with the police, although they were once called in for a “disciplinary hearing”.
“But the air was cleared after we pleaded our case to the police after a complaint was laid against us.”
The patroller highlighted that they have managed to recover stolen items and have also initiated successful drug busts in the area.
“We are the closest to getting the tip-offs from the community, and working with the police is an advantage for the community.”
The organisation has, however, admitted that it needs funding in order to perform its duties and to purchase operating equipment.
Bittersoet currently depends on donations and a monthly membership fee from the patrollers to keep them going and to keep the community safe.
They need more funds to buy fuel and to secure a permanent operating premises. The funds will also assist with transportation to cover more ground, as well as the purchase of proper operational patrolling equipment.
They pointed out that they make use of their personal vehicles and would like to get bicycles to cover a broader area in an affordable manner.
The members further added that they depend on donations from small businesses where they have put up their logos for security purposes.
‘We also get small donations from our community members, who pledge their support on the community WhatsApp group.
“We don’t have any formal funding mode yet, but we recognise and appreciate whatever we get and put it to good use to reach our objective.
They added that they have also received invitations to expand their services to other areas like Ritchie and Roodepan.
“We have already built relationships with other community groups and operations in an effort to expand our services, like the new ‘social responsibility’ initiative.
“We haven’t had any major incidents lately but we always have a task team on the ground that ensures that every case gets attended to while the other members are at work.”