Yeah baby! Cops on bikes. No, not CHiPS-style (a cultural reference that will go over the heads of anyone under 30), they’re on bicycles. Woodstock SAPS officers are now patrolling on two wheels. This is a great initiative – it raises visibility of policing, they can cover more ground, but still helps officers develop a sense of who’s who, and who’s dodgy. WID (Woodstock Improvement District) and Nils Hansen of UWRA, and owner of Woodstock Cycle Works down near the Good Hope Centre, are assisting with maintenance of the bikes. Nice job.
Response to “Woodstock crime soars” (Weekend Argus, 18 Apr. 09)
As Chairperson of the Woodstock Community Police Forum (WCPF) I would like to respond to the article “Woodstock crime soars” in the Weekend Argus of 18 April 2009, so that the rather narrow and one-sided view of the writer and the business owners referred to in the article can be put in the right perspective.
It is the job of the Community Police Forum to monitor the police service in the area and we can state without hesitation that the Woodstock police are working extremely hard at reducing crime. The police are constantly keeping abreast of crime patterns and device their crime fighting strategies accordingly. There is good police visibility in the area and they make better use of modern technology to link suspects to crimes.
But it is a well-known, well-researched and well-established fact that the police cannot do their job without the help of the community. The Community Police Forum has monthly meetings. Both SAPS and the organisations that form part of the Forum have done their best to publicise contact details of Woodstock SAPS and Patrol Vehicles to the community in the local press and via public meetings.
It must be stressed that in most parts of the Woodstock precinct great strides have been made in reducing crime by an excellent co-operation between community and police. Therefore the article is by no means a true reflection of the entire Woodstock precinct as the headline implies. On the whole and through the hard work of residents in the area, Woodstock is turning the tables tremendously on the negative image of the past.
However there are still parts of the community, which are not coming to the party. The area (Lower Woodstock) that the article refers to is a typical example of this. The Sector Forum (a body in which police and community work together) in this sector basically only has one community member, because residents are refusing to get involved. There is no active civic organisation, like in other parts of the precinct. When public meetings are held, very few people show up.
Business owners are the worst culprits and show no interest at all in what is going on. There isn’t a Business Forum. I don’t know any of the business owners mentioned in this article, because none of them has ever approached the Community Police Forum to complain about police service or to sit together with us and work on a strategy to fight crime. It is typical that one of the business owners states that they caught a person who stole a handbag and “had to bribe them to get the back bag” instead of taking the guy to the police station (which is practically next door to them) or calling the police. Did nobody have a cell phone, so that they at least could have taken a photo of the perpetrator?
As is clear from this example it is a fact that people are not reporting crime, opening cases and supporting the police in the follow up, because a lot of people withdraw their statements again or refuse to testify in court. How can they then expect the police to deal with the criminals effectively?
It is all very well for residents and business owners to complain about crime levels to the press, but they themselves sit back and do nothing, while expecting things to happen. I would urge these people to get involved with the Police Forum, Sector Forum and SAPS, and stand together. Only an organised effort is going to make a difference.
Adding to all this I can write long stories about a Justice system, which is failing us miserably and does not prosecute criminals. I can go on about Metro Police, which is basically non-existent in the Woodstock area and in any case “don’t know what they are doing” (a statement made this week by City councillors, with which I wholeheartedly agree). I can say that big property owners in the area – like City Council, Intersite, Portnet and Metrorail – are refusing to do anything about the shack dwellers on their properties referred to in the article. Unfortunately the police cannot do anything without the proper legal back up.
The message is clear. The police can not do it all on their own. Other role-players need to step up and get involved. Don’t just criticise the police for not doing enough, while refusing to do anything yourself or getting involved.
Residents and business owners can contact me for more information. I would also be interested to hear their suggestions on how to improve the situation. I can be contacted on 083 298 1009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Chairperson Woodstock Community Police Forum)
Some safety precautions you can take in and around your house:
- High Walls are NOT safe. A high see-through fence around the house with lockable gates is much safer due to the advantage of improved visibility.
- Ensure all doors are locked and windows closed when you are not at home. Never leave keys in the door.
- Lock all tools away – ladders, axes, spades, picks, screwdrivers, hammers can be used in an attack or to break into your house.
- Get into the habit of not immediately falling asleep after switching off the lights.
- You should not be visible in the bedroom from the outside when you are asleep.
- Always keep a torch nearby at night and when you use it, ensure that you do not give away your position.
- When you are out late in the evening or at night, be aware of your surroundings and if you don’t feel safe or comfortable, contact your security provider (they should come to your assistance) or the Woodstock SAPS Sector 2 Patrol Vehicle or Woodstock Station – see numbers below.
- Get to know your neighbours and get their phone numbers. Your neighbour is closest when you need help and good neighbours can support and help each other. Also inform each other about anything suspicious.
- Get a whistle and blow it loudly when something happens. People will come to your assistance.
- Vary your daily routine, because you never know who is watching you.
- Involve employees, as they are part of the family/team and must be involved in maintaining security on an equal footing.
- Do not employ casual workers without a reference.
- Do not leave valuable items in your car!!!
- These are the essential phone numbers you must have programmed into your phone and stuck to your fridge or front door:
- Woodstock SAPS Patrol Vehicle Sector 2 – 082 443 5129
- Woodstock SAPS Shift Captain – 082 469 2522
- Sector Manager Constable Prins – 082 302 6789
- Number of your security provider – ADT, City Bowl, Chubb, etc.
- Number of your neighbour(s)
Also: report all crime – even if it seems trivial to you. Woodstock Police need this information to effectively combat crime in our area!
In the past a big complaint from the public was that they never received any feedback from the police once they opened a case at the police station. It is difficult for the detectives working at Woodstock police station to provide that feedback by phoning the complainants, simply because each detective has a huge number of cases in hand and does not have the time to do so.
It is now possible for residents to get feedback by phoning the Detectives’ office at Woodstock police station on 021 442 3109 and speak to Mrs Veldsman or email to email@example.com marked Attention Mrs Veldsman. It is essential to quote the Case Number of the incident, otherwise the information cannot be accessed. Mrs Veldsman will do her best to get the information to you.
Should there be a problem with this service, please contact the Woodstock Community Police Forum.
The penalty for turning a “blind eye” to what others use your property for could – if your tenants turn out to be criminals – be forfeiture to the State.
A recent High Court judgment highlights the need for you to take positive steps to ensure that your assets aren’t used to commit crime. The law recruits you – as a property owner – into an active role as a guardian of your property against crime. You can’t sit back and be “supine”. You must “where reasonably possible, take steps to discourage criminal conduct” involving the use of your property.
In the case in question, the tenants of a farm were using it to manufacture mandrax. The owners weren’t shown to have in any way participated in any illegal activity – but they nevertheless had their farm forfeited to the State in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act. They were unable to convince the Court that they had acted with the degree of “vigilance and care” which the law requires of owners.
The onus is very much on you there; so keep an eye on what your tenants are up to!
A separate area of the Woodstock Police Station, the Victim Support Room, is staffed by volunteers from the community, who seek to empower victims and provide emotional support immediately after a crime and on a continuing basis as desired. The Room operates in co-operation with the police service and the Community Police Forum.
Volunteers at the Woodstock SAPS Victim Support Room provide
- a shoulder to lean on and an ear to listen;
- help contacting family or friends;
- give guidance through symptoms of what one may feel as a result of the event;
- help explain the process that needs to be followed;
- help in communicating with the SAPS;
- give practical help to avoid further problems; and
- find referral to a professional counselling service if a traumatic response is profound.
The Victim Support Room plays a pivotal role in victim empowerment and support, but cannot function without volunteers. At the moment there is a serious shortage of people to help out and that’s why we would like to call on members of the community to volunteer their services and time, so that we are able to have a fully functioning Victim Support Room.
The ideal person should be committed and compassionate and willing to deal with serious issues relating to crime. Training with regards to Trauma counselling and First Aid will be provided by the Community Police Forum.
We need you to support your community!!
If you would like to become a volunteer, please contact Sergeant Malila - 082 778 7344 or Teun Baartman – 083 298 1009.