DA calls for ‘smart deployment’ of Neighbourhood Watches during lockdown

The Democratic Alliance has called for the smart deployment of neighbourhood watches (NHW) and Community Police Forums (CPF) to assist the under-resourced South African Police Services to ensure public safety during the lockdown.

The ability of the police to maintain law and order will be severely tested as South Africa during the fourth week of the Covid-19 lockdown, declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa in response to the pandemic.

“The DA proposes a smart deployment that will take into consideration the risk of transmission of the corona virus as well as the local conditions in communities.

Relevant cluster and station commanders should be authorised to permit CPFs and NHWs to patrol in certain areas most vulnerable to crime. They can use recent crime statistics to decide if, where and when they are deployed,” said Andrew Whitfield, the DA Shadow Minister of Police.

“A blanket deployment would put more than 60 000 CPF members and countless NHW members onto the streets and this would be untenable during the lockdown given the risk of transmission,” added Whitfield.

The DA’s smart deployment therefore proposes the following:

    • All CPF and NHW members must have the relevant personal protective equipment (PPE) and operate only as eyes and ears for SAPS – they are not enforcers of the regulations or any other law;
    • A code of conduct or memorandum of understanding must be entered into between SAPS and the relevant CPF or NHW which clearly sets out the conditions and limitations of their deployment during the lockdown;
    • The CPF or NHW must be recognised by their local SAPS station commander and members authorised to be deployed must posses an essential service permit; and
    • In line with the DA’s Smart Lockdown model, that community policing structures are phased in as follows:
      Hard Lockdown – 25 % deployment
      Soft Lockdown – 50 % deployment
      Soft Open – 75% deployment
      Open – 100% deployment

While every South African is putting efforts to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, criminals have taken advantage of this situation.

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“We are particularly concerned about rural communities, where police resources have historically been lacking.

The DA therefore reiterates our call for rural community policing structures to be permitted to operate with the permission of the relevant cluster and station commanders.

Crimes that were supposedly kept under control due to the presence of CPFs and NHWs, prior to the lockdown, such as house breakings, have reportedly increased in many areas.

Criminals see the lockdown and the lack of visible policing as an opportunity to commit crime.

The DA believes that it is critically important for NHW and CPF to be able to patrol, so that people who live in communities that are vulnerable to crime can feel safe and secure during this time of anxiety and uncertainty,” concluded Whitfield.

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