Terrence Pillay, who hosts The Good, The Bad and The Ugly on ECR on Wednesday mornings, spoke on the issue.
He said in many groups, it was always the case of a “suspicious BM (black male) walking down the road” that caused panic.
Pillay added that those who racially profiled, needed to be stopped and it was up to the administrators of the groups to remove those people.
“It is good to be vigilant but not a vigilante and it is up to the admins to manage the group, and stop racial prejudice in its tracks.”
He spoke of a woman who had alerted a group to a suspicious black male parked outside a school. It emerged the man had been waiting for his child, who had been doing an extra-mural lesson.
Another group in Manor Gardens, he said, had “paint-balled” a man for walking on the road. It turned out he was going to work. This week, Pillay said the man is taking the group responsible to court.
When a woman was called out for being racist on a group, she responded: “I hope you get raped in your house and then you will learn to be more vigilant.”
A community activist spoke of a recent incident where he despatched emergency services to a scene, as three men were allegedly observing houses, north of Durban.
It turned out the men were working at a nearby truck yard and had been waiting for their boss to arrive.
Kyle van Reenen, a security expert and media liaison for Marshall Security, manages 198 community WhatsApp groups that largely covers the north of Durban.
He also assists in groups that cover Morningside, Westville, Reservoir Hills and nationally.
Van Reenan said it was important for communities to decrease the ambiguity in WhatsApp posts, which could often be misconstrued as having a racial tone.
“It is also important to know your road. Know the normal goings-on, who your neighbours are, etc. This will allow you to identify suspicious behaviour and persons.”
He said they often tried to educate followers on not infringing on other people’s rights.
“A person walking down the road with a backpack and a cap is more than likely going to work. But a man walking at 2am in the morning, hiding behind trees and looking into houses, for sure is suspicious.”
The Community Policing Forum chairman in Crossmoor, Chatsworth, Zain Cassim, is an administrator to 10 crime groups but is a member of more than 100.
He said racial profiling was a common occurrence, but those found guilty of spreading misinformation in the groups he oversaw were removed.
“People need to assess the situation before causing a state of panic.”
The administrator of Durban Crime Awareness and Durban Traffic Alert, Mo Dawood, said errant behaviour was not tolerated but added some people were being cautious.
Zain Soosiwala, who manages eThekwini Secure, which covers areas around KZN, added: “When we started, people did not know how to report an incident and made many mistakes. We then embarked on an education drive to teach members how to report a crime.”
Glen Naidoo, the director of KZN VIP, who manages the Phoenix Crime Watch WhatsApp group, and a Facebook page, said of the 50 call-outs received a day, about three were legitimate.
The others, he said, were complaints on what the residents deemed suspicious-looking or vehicles in the area.