The community of Lower Houghton raised R7,5-million to secure their suburb through the launch of the Houghton Community Active Protection (Cap).

Project co-ordinator, Arnold Basserabi, said the Cap project is aimed at proactive crime fighting.

"It is a proactive solution utilising a mix of early identification, observation, intelligence-gathering, surveillance, static and mobile patrols involving properly-trained and equipped staff.

"It is endorsed by the Norwood Police and Norwood Community Police Forum.

"The project also aims to ensure there is a feeling of safety among residents, business owners and visitors to Lower Houghton.

"It will send an unequivocal message to criminals that there is zero tolerance towards their criminal intentions.

"Residents will retain their own private armed response companies as required by insurance companies.

"Cap will provide the security service in the public open spaces in the area to prevent criminals from invading homes and businesses," says Basserabie.

There will be a single point of contact, with a dedicated telephone number for emergencies.

There will also be a 24-hour/365-day manned Incident Control and Command Centre, high performance patrol vehicles with two highly-trained and armed guards and high-performance patrol vehicles with two armed guards driving around the area 24 hours a day.

In addition, there will be manned filter points in the neighbourhood where people can drive to if they feel they are being followed.

Wireless camera points will be placed strategically throughout the area. A block watch system will be started where two neighbours, in radio contact with the call centre, patrol the streets.

Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein congratulated the Lower Houghton community for the initiative and said it was the finest example of community activism with residents taking on responsibility after identifying the problem.

"People need to take responsibility for their own lives. This initiative is an extension of similar ones in other northern and north-eastern suburbs, which fills the desperate need for safety and security and the religious principle of the sanctity of life," he says.

Mohamed Seedat, a Lower Houghton resident who sits on the Cap executive committee, says crime is the greatest threat to South Africa since 1994.

"Politicians always talk about deep-rooted causes of crime such as poverty and a lack of spiritual values.

"However, in the meantime, we have to strive for the eradication of crime, while at the same time looking at the causes," he says.

Captain Philip Magandesa from Norwood SAPS says the launch would stop their work in the area.

"This launch does not mean that SAPS won't patrol 24 hours a day because of this new system in place, but we will work hand-in-hand with the community and hold daily and weekly meetings to discuss crime situations where necessary.

"We will also post police members in unmarked cars in the area. United against crime, we shall win," he says.

Srinivasan Venkat said residents should use their cellphones as their most powerful weapons.

"This should not be seen to be a vigilante act. Residents should report any unusual or suspicious occurrences to the call centre, which will react immediately.

"We have screens where we monitor where every vehicle is and we will be able to dispatch a car almost immediately," says Venkat.

"An assembly point will be constructed at the Shell garage in Glenhove Road, which can also be used by residents as a stopping point to request an escort home should they for any reason, feel unsafe," he says.

Only people with military and special operations backgrounds are employed, according to Venkat.

All staff members are put through stringent security tests which include polygraphs.

In other areas, such as Sandhurst where the Cap project also operates, crime dropped by 87 percent.

The Houghton Cap needs R9-million a year to run. Already, R7,5-million had been pledged and R5-million collected in cash.

A central improvement district is to be established in which residents make compulsory additional payments on their rates bills.

The extra money is used for additional cleaning and security services in the suburb.

In terms of CID legislation, residents will have to pay between R300 and R500 a month over and above their rates and services bills. For a CID to be approved, there has to be a 51 percent approval by residents.

The Houghton Cap will also launch a domestic workers' programme, training them how to stay on the lookout for crime and rewarding them financially if they spot or report criminal activities.

In just a week since its launch, the Cap project has helped in the arrest of several people.

Mark Notelowitz, from the security company guarding the area, said the Houghton Cap members had already achieved great successes.

They had assisted SAPS at a road block in Houghton on the weekend in which 25 people were arrested.

Netcare 911 has attended to three violent attacks in the Lynnwood area since Saturday night and the following safety tips can be applied to anybody living in any area:

  • Approach your residence with caution and check if you are being followed. Never drive into your driveway if you suspect you are being followed but rather go to a police station or a well-lit place of safety such as a busy all-night petrol station.

  • Ensure all your doors and windows are closed/locked at night or when you go to sleep.

  • Make sure that your alarm system is in good working order and that you know how to use it.

  • Train children and domestic workers not to let any strangers into your home. Many conmen dress up in overalls and claim to be workmen from the telephone, water or electricity companies.

  • It is not advisable to walk around and investigate suspicious noises in the house at night, rather lock yourself and family in a safe area and call for assistance.