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Monday Jul 11, 2016

Parson's Ridge neighbourhood watch scheme sees crime drop by 80 percent

Crime has dropped by a remarkable 80 percent in just four months in Parson's Ridge, one of Port Elizabeth's newest residential suburbs.

That's according to Jennifer Deyzel, chairwoman of 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, managing director Aaron Cohen's response was simply to ask what they needed, says 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 buyers' long-term investments. "For us it's not just about the money - we don't walk away when the last unit has been built."

Originally a farm, Parson's Ridge has been divided into 400 residential stands, 200 of which were bought and developed by Cohen Property Developments.

Parson's 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, says Warrant Officer Egmond Potgieter of Kabega Park SAPS.

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 local police.

"Patrols with marked 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 says.

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 our time and money to keep our area and our homes safe," she says.

"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 become burglary victims."

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 the firm has decided to sponsor neighbourhood watches in every suburb it develops in order to leave a lasting legacy for residents.

The neighbourhood watch concept originated in New York in the US in the late 1960s, spreading rapidly throughout the world and arriving in South Africa in the 1970s.

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