This was a marked improvement from the time when they were forever running away from the police and seen as an irritation and contributors to crime in the area surrounding the University of Pretoria.
The relationship between the car guards and the police was always contentious and adversarial.
However, the Brooklyn SAPS adopted a new social crime prevention approach in January by involving the car guards in an upliftment programme.
Station commander Brigadier Kushie Nair then established a car guard forum to address the deeply entrenched social inequalities they faced.
With that, car guards were given some dignity and became respected and law-abiding residents of the Brooklyn policing precinct.
A database with details of about 150 car guards was established.
The University of Pretoria’s Community Engagement Department got on board with a life skills training programme.
The car guards are very dedicated in attending the training sessions and crime prevention meetings every Thursday.
The Pick * Pay store at Hillcrest provides lunch on training days.
The programme has started to yield fruit and some car guards got permanent employment in a vegetable garden project in Hatfield with the University of Pretoria.
A businessman from Hatfield employed others to manage his parking bays.
A clinic is addressing the car guards’ medical needs and social workers are available to help them solve and cope with problems in their everyday lives.
The car guards elected leader Nxolisi Vuyani Gabela and chairperson Michael Ndimande, who now represent them on the Brooklyn Community Policing Forum.
There has been a slight decline in vehicle-related crimes in Hatfield and to thank them Nair decided to spoil them for Father’s Day.
Security companies and residents donated beanies, scarves and gloves for the goodie bags.
Nair said the change she was seeing in these men’s behaviour, the way they were starting to dress and the responsibility they were taking in helping to make Hatfield safe, made her extremely proud.
She said the treats were to acknowledge the human being behind the reflector jacket.
“During the day, they are like fathers looking after the young people’s vehicles and their safety.”