Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

JP Smith 'breaking law' by asking neighbourhood watch members to become DRM volunteers

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Apr 9, 2020

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Cape Town – A well-intended call by the City of Cape Town’s Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRM) to all Neighbourhood Watches who are accredited with the Department of Community Safety – not more than 10 per area – to consider joining its volunteer database has sparked controversy.

In a statement yesterday, mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said: "This call is specifically linked to the City’s Safety and Security Directorate’s Covid-19 disaster risk management efforts. The areas where DRM volunteers are specifically required to assist are:

• Promoting social distancing at supermarket (and other shop) queues

• Promoting social distancing at clinics

• Promoting social distancing at transport interchanges

• Patrolling school grounds to prevent vandalism

When asked whether this action by the City of Cape Town was legal, national police spokesperson Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo told the Cape Times on Thursday: "There is a total lockdown nationally which clearly outlines that everybody must remain within the confines of their own homes with certain exceptions. Neighbourhood Watch is not one of those exemptions."

It has been argued that the police would have been more succesful in implementing lockdown measures in condensed living areas, especially physical distancing, were they able to call on the services of Neighbourhood Watch and Community Policing Forum members, who understand their communities better.

Smith said: "They will also be formally appointed as DRM volunteers and be provided with the necessary permit to perform these essential services during the lockdown period.

"All accredited Neighbourhood Watches within the City’s boundaries are therefore invited to nominate not more than 10 of their members for appointment as DRM volunteers…

"Once you have submitted the names, please note that the DRMC will make contact with interested members over the next few weeks as and when the need arises. 

"Until you have been contacted, briefed and issued for a work permit by DRM, please refrain from assuming any NHW duties."

Pastor Charles George, the Delft Community Policing Forum chairperson, told the Cape Times: "The Community Policing Forums fall under your national police constitution and your Neighbourhood Watches under the City. 

"So if JP Smith is asking for the Neighbourhood Watches to assist law enforcement, he has to first make that appeal to the national government to make that instruction."

The City has already been criticised from all quarters for its lack of consultation in moving homeless people from across the metro to a shelter at the Strandfontein sports grounds, which resulted in chaos and some of the homeless trying to escape. 

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