Community Security in Newlands

This page was set up after the Real Newlands Neighbours WhatsApp group asked about setting up a Newlands-wide security group.

I work with the NRA, so I can only speak for them, but Fernwood also has a great Residents’ Association and security structure. There is also a chunk of the ‘official’ Newlands which appears to be unrepresented. (This process might disprove that).

Many people on Real Newlands Neighbours live inside the NRA area, but many do not.

So this page is my attempt to set out how community security works in our area. Information, not advice!

First, to understand the boundaries of Newlands, as per the municipal map.

  • ‘Official’ Newlands is outlined in red.
  • The NRA area is outlined in green and includes a bit of Rondebosch that everyone assumes is in Newlands.
  • Fernwood Residents Association is orange on the lower left hand side.
  • There is a chunk of Newlands between Main Road and Campground Road (right hand side) which seems to have no civic representation but is partly covered by Groote Schuur CID (GSCID) and Claremont Improvement District Company (CIDC). They both have security teams although their remit is not residential property. The map just got too messy when I overlaid their areas of operation as well.

Neighbourhood Watches
Almost every part of Newlands and Claremont has a local Civic Organisation which is registered with the City. This gives them a voice with their Councillor and City departments.

Each organisation typically also has a security portfolio which is usually – but not always – a registered Neighbourhood Watch (NHW).

NHW’s are quite tough to register, need the endorsement of SAPS and others, and are strictly regulated. There are community benefits to having a NHW but they are not really necessary to deliver community security.

The Newlands Residents’ Association has been running community security projects for many years but only recently applied to be registered as a NHW. It has been accepted by the Department of Community Safety as the official Neighbourhood Watch in its area.

Fernwood’s security team are called Fernwood Watch and they have been a registered NHW for quite a long time. They do great work, especially with their complex boundary on the mountain.

How do we post security alerts in the NRA area?

In the NRA area, all streets are covered by micro-WhatsApp groups. The logic is that if you aren’t going to mute a security group then the messages need to be relevant to you – always. The image above is purely illustrative and not meant to represent an accurate picture of group coverage.

There are more than fifteeen micro-WhatsApp groups in the NRA area. If someone reports that there is a dodgy bell ringer on your group then you know that he is nearby and not on the other side of town.

This is a different approach to the much larger security group idea – it is highly localised. Not necessarily better but just the way we have evolved on this side.

In aggregate there are about 1,000 people on the NRA micro-security groups. The bigger ones have in excess of 100 particpants. (The smallest one is just 16 but that is due to the road being rather isolated and several participants are also on neighbouring groups).

A bigger group would be much more efficient for broadcasting information that needs to reach a lot of people quickly.

Response: If you need security support from a WhatsApp groups, there needs to be a response team always listening.

Private Security Firms: FADT, Princeton, etc.
These companies will join big groups, if asked, because it is good marketing. And if one joins a group you can be sure the others will too. They make their money out of Armed Response contracts and have no obligation to help anyone in a public space or who is not a client. That does not mean they won’t help if they see trouble on a WhatsApp group, but they have no obligation to – and their operational priority will always be their clients. Good to have but no guarantee of a speedy response.

NRA Community Patrollers:
We have a small fleet of dedicated Community Patrollers who are specifically contracted to work in our streets and open spaces. They serve the whole community. It is expensive and much of our time is spent persuading people to subscribe. (That is the story of every community security project).

We have three Community Patrol vehicles working in our area 24/7. Each of our WhatsApp groups has at least one NRA security volunteer on it, with direct access to the patrollers via a private group. That private group also has Fernwood, Claremont and Rondebosch reps on it, and vice versa.

Homewners who contribute to our Community Patrollers fund can also have direct access to the patrollers radio operator. There are several of those on every group. (There are good operational reasons why you can’t sensibly give hundreds of people direct access to responders.)

In theory we can have one or more patrol cars at any location in our area, within a few minutes of a patroller being alerted.

For more detail on NRA Community Security Projects look here.

Fernwood Watch:
I haven’t had a chance to learn exactly how the Fernwood team respond but my understanding is that they have a similar set up, also serviced by a dedicated Community patrol car.

A bit complicated, but some of our WhatsApp groups do have individual police officers on them. It might be because they live in the area, are reservists, or because they like to advise residents of specific concerns (this is especially true of the groups that fall under Rondebosch SAPS).

If a suspect is detained by a homeowner or a private security officer, only SAPS can actually arrest them, so we need to be able get them on scene. In the NRA area that means summoning SAPS Claremont or SAPS Rondebosch. Typically this is done via 10111, our security company’s control room or the personal contacts of our volunteers.

Groote Schuur CID and Claremont CID:
CID’s are commercial entities that are a public / private partnership delivering community services. They are funded by a levy on business rates, collected by the City. They are obliged to deliver cleansing, social work, environmental and security services to their area of operation. I am simplifying horribly but that sort of covers it. CIDC and GSCID cover some of the blank space on the Newlands map above and GSCID also service the commercial district around the Dean Street circle, which is in the NRA area. They are a great security resource for our community in that space.