Frequently Asked Questions

/FAQ
FAQ 2017-08-25T17:36:55+00:00

Before you call or email us, you will find common questions and answers and many security tips below. If you cannot find what you were looking for please contact us!

If you have suggestions to amend the list, please do not hesitate to email us.

About Somerset West Neighbourhood Watch 2018-03-10T14:00:53+00:00

Who are we?

  • We are ordinary members of the community just like you; neighbours looking out for neighbours. A friendly neighbourhood is a safe neighbourhood.
  • Somerset West Neighbourhood Watch (SWNW) is a voluntary community organisation whose sole aim is to help make our communities safer and free from crime.
  • We have around 3000 individual members and 400 volunteer patrollers. Together we are the ‘eyes and ears’ throughout the town.
  • We also have a Facebook Page that is followed by of over 7000 people and regularly reach in excess of 20,000 people each week.

What do we do ?
We like our area so much, we want to protect it. Whilst crime affects all parts of the country, we want to minimise it in our town so people can live, work and play without fear of becoming a victim. Our volunteers use their ‘eyes and ears’ to help make sure they and their neighbours stay safe. You don’t have to patrol but we do need more people to use their ‘eyes & ears’ and report suspicious behaviour.We have volunteers who undertake foot and vehicle patrols across the area and at all times of the day and night. We also mobilise our community in times of civil emergencies such as fire or floods. People responded in their hundreds to rescue those trapped when parts of the town flooded and the community response to support the fire crews fighting fires on our mountain range was simply incredible.

How do we work?

  • We have over 20 local watch groups who all take responsibility for their part of town. Each watch is led by a coordinator, someone who you can contact for advice, someone who will send you information and a newsletter about things that are going on in your area.
  • We have our own radio network and masts that connect our patrollers and also the Neighbourhood Watches in other areas such as Sir Lowry’s Pass, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Raithby and Faure with reach along the N2 to the airport.
  • The hub of our operations is the Neighbourhood Watch Communications Centre in Somerset West from where dedicated staff monitor the radio and our own array of CCTV cameras.
  • Our cameras are located at strategic points across the area and are equipped with licence plate recognition software to provide intelligence and evidence to support police investigations.
  • All our equipment has been acquired through community donations or sponsorship.
  • We also have a dedicated Support Vehicle and crew that are sponsored by a local security company. All fuel for the Support Vehicle is provided by sponsorship and public donations.

Who do we work with?

  • Somerset West Neighbourhood Watch is a founder member of the Community Safety Partnership. This comprises ADT Security, AM Security, Gordon’s Bay Security, Secure Rite Security, ER24, Emergency Medical Operations (EMO) and Gordon’s Bay Medical Rescue.
  • All companies carry the Neighbourhood Watch radio and can respond to any situation.
  • Our security company partners have all agreed to support the community by providing free proactive patrols.
  • Radio communication with the emergency medical response helps ensure life-saving medical assistance is on the scene rapidly, as minutes matter.
  • Collectively, we provide the fastest and most coordinated response to crime and other emergencies that is available.

What are the benefits?

  • It’s free to join, so tell your friends and neighbours.
  • You will be part of one of the most sophisticated and successful Neighbourhood Watches in the country.
  • You are helping to protect your local community and taking an active stand against crime.
  • Your Coordinator has an ‘alert’ system in place that helps to warn you about suspicious cars or people.
  • You will receive regular newsletters that contain valuable information to help keep you and your family safe.
  • Our communication networks can be used to circulate details of missing persons or lost or found pets.
  • You can tell us about broken manhole covers, potholes, broken street lights, overgrown public open spaces etc. and we will inform the Municipality.

What can you do to help?

  • Join us and be a part of the solution moving towards a safer more caring community.
  • Email us and we will contact you.
  • Call our Communication Centre on 021 840 0009 if you see anything suspicious.
  • Like most organisations, we have bills to pay, so we welcome all voluntary contributions. You can donate any amount you wish by EFT, Bank Stop Order or by using SnapScan.
How do I join the Somerset West Neighbourhood Watch 2018-03-10T14:00:53+00:00

Who can join?
All residents and business owners in Somerset West are encouraged to join SWNW.

What is the joining process?
You can trigger the process online here – or drop an email or call 021 840 0009
leaving your name and contact details. You will be sent an application form for completion and then put in touch with your local area Coordinator.

What ways of communication can I use?

  1. Call our Communication Centre (021) 840 0009
  2. Neighbourhood Watch Radio covering Somerset West, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Raithby and Faure – radios can be purchased by e-mailing radios@somersetwestnw.org.za
  3. Most of our Neighbourhood Watch areas have WhatsApp groups – once you are a member – provided you have WhatsApp on your phone – you may wish to be added to an appropriate group.

What does it cost?
Somerset West Neighbourhood Watch does NOT charge for membership and there is NO requirement for you to contribute any of your time to patrol our streets. BUT this is a group of citizens who look after one another. So by joining you are agreeing to look after those around you while they do the same in return.

However, as it is a community organisation, donations towards the running costs of the Communication Centre and/or Petrol are needed to ensure the NW can continue the work it does.

How can I make a donation?
We provide several ways to receive ‘cost free’ donations – more info is here. We thank you in advance!

Security Tips 2018-03-10T14:00:53+00:00

General

  • Get to know your immediate neighbours and ask for their contact details, both home and work. This will help if you see something which you are concerned about.
  • Keep a written list of all emergency numbers and keep your cell phone next to your bed at night; add control room number to your ‘favourites’.
  • If you see items out of place when you enter your home, exit immediately, leave the property and call for help from a safe distance.
  • Be aware of vehicles and people who do not belong in your area.
  • Do not turn into your driveway if you think someone is following you or if you see something out of place on returning home.
  • Keep driveway and approach free of shrubs and overgrown plants.
  • Do not leave your garage door open with its contents on display.
  • Display your house number clearly – emergency services waste time looking for house numbers to locate your house.
  • If you are going away for a period of time, ask someone to empty your post box.
  • PLEASE do NOT give food or money to people knocking at your door. This is a known way to scout the area and put markers down to target premises.

Household Waste

  • Do NOT put your refuse bin out before collection day and then not before 6am. This will reduce the opportunity for ‘Bin Scratchers’ to go through the waste. They are contravening a bye-law by their actions and can be arrested and fined
  • A person going through your refuse and recyclable waste will know what to expect in your house. Do not advertise the contents of your home by throwing out the packaging of valuable items, it is as good as a “For Sale” sign to thieves
  • Remember, bins will help a thief to climb over your wall or fence so the less time it is outside your property the better. Bring your bin inside as soon as possible after the refuse has been collected
  • Use a shredder to destroy any paperwork that contains any of your personal details before disposing in the recycling bag. Some ‘Bin Scratchers’ are known criminals who can use or sell personal information to perpetrate Identity Fraud. Also see SARS advice.

Windows / Doors / Locks

  • Draw your curtains when the sun sets. Criminals who are planning to commit a crime can see and study the layout of your house when the lights are on and curtains open. They will see your large flat screen TV!
  • Any windows that you intend to leave open at night should be fitted with security devices.
  • Locks for outside doors should be of a minimum of the 3 Lever variety and preferably a 5 Lever lock set.
  • Locks on outside doors should be changed when you move into a new home.
  • Do not leave keys in a place where they are visible from the street or easily accessible through an open window or broken window pane.
  • Do not leave car keys, house keys, safe keys or remotes in the house when you go away for extended periods of time.

Valuables

  • Keep accurate records of your valuables – use your digital camera to photograph each item and its serial number and keep a hard copy somewhere.
  • Install a safe for your smaller valuables such as jewellery and spare cash.
  • If possible, mark / etch an identifying feature on items without serial numbers such as lawn mowers.

Dogs

  • Listen to your dogs, they can hear far better than we can. Don’t hesitate to call SAPS, your neighbours and/or security companies if your dog is unusually ’restless’. Better to be over-cautious than let the criminals have their way.
  • Keep your dogs inside your home rather than outside at night.
  • Be very careful with cat and dog flaps / doors. It is not unusual for criminals to use children to gain access through a small opening or animal flap.

Domestics or Gardeners / Contractors

  • Do a thorough background check before employing anyone. Experience suggests that there is a strong chance of a connection between domestic / garden workers and a burglary at premises where they work.
  • Ensure that contractors have up to date records of all employees with copies of their ID and place of residence.
  • Never leave contractors unattended in your home. If you have a contractor on site let your neighbours know. Ask friends and family about reputable companies and advertise good companies in social media.

Alarms / Lighting

  • Examine your house for weak spots or get an alarm company to give you a free assessment.
  • Make sure your alarm system is tested every month and serviced every year.
  • Always set the alarm when you go out and consider setting some zones in the daytime when you are in the premises.
  • Install sensor lights that activate at night to illuminate key or vulnerable areas.
  • When away on holiday, consider using lights on timer switches inside your home, so that it appears as if the house is occupied.
  • If you go away, tell your Alarm Company and give them contact details.

Gardens / shed

  • Overgrown gardens provide good hiding places for criminals, particularly near your front door or vulnerable windows.
  • Garden sheds should be securely locked as the tools they contain will help potential thieves to gain entry to your premises.
  • Secure all ladders as they will provide easy access to the upstairs rooms where security is often minimal.
What do I do if I am in a Hijack Situation? 2018-03-10T14:00:53+00:00
  • Remain calm. Keep your cool
  • Do not challenge hijackers
  • Do not fight to keep your vehicle
  • Do exactly as you are told by hijackers
  • Do not try and be smart e.g. throwing away your keys
  • Even if you are shocked and terrified, try to understand exactly what the hijacker wants from you
  • Keep your hands still and visible to the hijacker. Answer questions truthfully, especially with regards to firearms. If the hijacker finds out that you have lied, they are likely to become violent
  • Do not reach for your purse or valuables and leave everything in the vehicle. Property can be replaced. Lives cannot!
  • Surrender your vehicle and move away. Gather as much information as possible without posing a threat. For example, the number of hijackers; what they are wearing; their ages; any physical or facial features but do not stare at them
  • If you have a baby or pet in the vehicle which they may not have noticed, tell the hijacker
  • Phone police immediately after hijackers have left the scene. Take notice of any get-away vehicles and the direction they go together with any distinguishing marks on the vehicle
  • Should you lose any personal belongings, give all the details to the police and put a stop on any bank cards that have been stolen. If you lose your cell phone, report it to your airtime provider. Change locks to any keys that have been taken.
How do I set up my Security Layers? 2018-03-10T14:00:53+00:00

There are several layers of security that are relevant to our own personal protection and the protection of our families:

  • Firstly: taking responsibility for your own safety and the safety of your property should be a major concern for us all. This is our duty to ensure our homes are locked and adequately protected, that our vehicles are safely parked and without valuables left on display, and that our children are taught something about the basic dangers that exist in society. All these things we can do to help ensure our collective safety. Of course everyone’s needs are slightly different but it comes down to basic precautions, care and vigilance. This applies whether we are at home, in the office or down at the beach. Crime can happen at any time so we must be prepared to prevent it.
  • Secondly: Some of our safety also lies with our neighbours. When residents pay attention to what is happening around them, it helps to deter criminals who visit our community, as they become aware that they are being watched. This is also one of the great strengths of NW because we choose to be more vigilant. We can’t expect to see everything but when we do feel something is suspicious or not ‘normal’, doing something about it can make the difference in preventing a crime from being committed. In a time of need your Neighbour might be the person that is the closest to call for some assistance. Besides your immediate family with you in your home, your neighbour is closer to you than police or security companies.
  • Our third layer is where we as Neighbourhood Watchers give a few hours of our time back to the community to patrol our streets. Whether it is two hours a week or four hours a month, time spent patrolling your watch area can make all the difference. Patrollers have radios linked to the Community Safety Partnership, as well as over 400 radios in private hands, who will respond to reports of suspicious behaviour or crimes taking place. Our patrollers are out at all hours of the day and night, protecting our communities, helping you to get a peaceful night’s sleep. Property type crimes are committed either by opportunists or by serial criminals who plan their activities in advance. Both will be deterred if they see visible NW Patrols actively watching out for their community.
  • Fourth, Monitored Alarms. Alarm systems should comprise of door & window contacts, internal PIR detectors and external beams to provide further layers of security which can give warning of a potential intrusion but also to deter criminals from making any attempt on our property. Security companies react to these alarms by notifying their armed response vehicle which is then despatched to the location. The importance of alarm monitoring and an armed response must not be under-estimated as it limits the time a criminal can spend in your premises because they are faced with the certainty that an armed officer is approaching. In contrast, an unmonitored or independent alarm is of arguable benefit and can actually have a detrimental impact on the surrounding community. They do not tend to be serviced and frequently activate thereby causing nuisance to neighbours who then begin to treat this situation as ‘normal’ and will not consider the situation suspicious.
  • The final layer of our security is the police. Unfortunately police numbers are limited, and calls for their assistance are often greater than they can respond to at any one time. However, it is vital that all crimes (or attempts) are reported to them as they cannot hope to prevent crime or identify crime problems if they only have half the picture. It is sometimes just one small piece of seemingly inconsequential information which, when passed on to police, helps solves the crime or identify persons or vehicles involved. As a consequence, they are more likely to patrol areas where crimes are being committed than those areas which appear to be without crime due to a lack of reporting.