Crime has dropped by an incredible 80 percent in just four months in Parson’s Ridge, one of Port Elizabeth’s newest residential suburbs.
That’s according to Jennifer Deyzel, chairperson of the Parsons Ridge Patrols (PRP), a Neighbourhood Watch-based organisation formed earlier this year to combat housebreakings and thefts from vehicles in the area.
And a significant portion of its funding comes from an unusual source: leading Port Elizabeth development company Cohen Property Developments, which built most of the homes in the suburb.
Asked by the local community for his assistance in establishing a local Neighbourhood Watch to combat crime, Cohen Property Developments MD Aaron Cohen’s response was simply to ask what they needed, said Deyzel. “He then went ahead and provided us with signage, vests and caps, reflectors, torches and self-defence equipment all vital to the success of the PRP, which has grown from 12 to 32 patrollers since its inception.”
Cohen, who along with his brother, fellow director Stanley Cohen, says their interest in an area lasts beyond the sales. The company, which built the first home in Parson’s Ridge and still owns it, is committed to protecting their buyers’ long-term investments. “We take an interest in the areas we develop and I have to admit that I still regard each house as my own,” he says. “For us it’s not just about the money; we don’t walk away when the last unit has been built.”
Originally a farm, Parsons Ridge has been divided into 400 residential stands, 200 of which were bought and developed by Cohen Property Developments. Now one of the fastest developing areas in Port Elizabeth, Parsons Ridge is a thriving, caring community that works hand in hand with the Kabega Park Police Station to ‘keep the bad elements out and the good ones in’, says Deyzel.
There’s no doubt that the Parson’s Ridge Neighbourhood Watch is working, agrees Warrant Officer Egmond Potgieter of Kabega Park SAPS. “Housebreaking and theft out of motor vehicles are always a problem but with the help of the PRP which reports anything suspicious to us immediately, crime in this area is under control. The Neighbourhood Watch members are our eyes and ears.”
The PRP works closely with Sector Commander Constable Paul Disenyane, meeting regularly with him to discuss crime-related issues. “Without communication between the sector commander and the Neighbourhood Watch, this whole concept will be fruitless,” says W/O Potgieter. “The commitment and positive attitude of the Parsons Ridge NHW are the contributing factors to their success.”
W/O Potgieter says other key factors in a successful Neighbourhood Watch include residents taking a greater interest and becoming more aware of what’s going on around them, using their collective strength to prevent crime, physically participating in patrols and liaising closely with the police.
“Patrols with marked NHW clothes and signage help from a visibility point of view, but people in their homes can also play a big role in preventing crime, by checking their neighbours’ houses, knowing each other’s phone numbers, arranging with neighbours to check your house when you are away, and phoning your neighbours if you notice anything suspicious,” he adds.
Deyzel says the PRP focuses on three key areas, namely visible patrolling, educating residents on security and safety, and reporting crimes or suspicious activities to the police. “We’re not a vigilante group but rather a group of community-oriented residents who give of our time and money to keep our area and our homes safe,” she explains. “We’re proof that Neighbourhood Watches definitely work. And while we don’t have a collective database in South Africa to measure success scientifically, statistics in the UK show that Neighbourhood Watch members are on average 68 times less likely to be a burglary victim.”
Formed with a legally binding constitution, the PRP is a non-profit organisation that holds monthly meetings with members, patrollers and the local SAPS and sends out a quarterly newsletter to residents containing information on crime prevention and incidents.
As the result of the success of the PRP, Cohen says they have decided to sponsor Neighbourhood Watches in every suburb they develop in order to leave a lasting legacy for residents. These include Pinelands near Lorraine, where they’re currently building 140 units, Fairview (250 units), Mt Pleasant (274 units) and Kamma Heights (10 units).
The neighbourhood watch concept originated in New York in the US in the late 60’s, spreading rapidly throughout the world and arriving in the Western Cape in South Africa in the 1970s.