Private security firms boost police presence (Part 1)

Date: 26 Jul 2010
They watch, they patrol, they apprehend; security companies continue to be a crucial force in the nation's war on crime. But that extra suburb-to-suburb protection is often a high-priced service. Candice Bailey reports PRIVATE security is proving a popular alternative for the policing the country's residential areas, with the industry more than doubling in the past four years in Gauteng alone. Out of 169 suburbs in the Joburg area listed at the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira), there is at least one private security provider per area. And while business hubs like the Joburg CBD have up to 269 providers, some residential suburbs such as Honeydew and Kelvin have up to 10 companies in their area. Statistics at Psira show that while there were only 1 139 private security companies registered in Gauteng in 2005, there were 2 667 companies registered by the end of last year - a 134 percent increase. Ricky Croock, the managing director of private security company CSS Tactical, said the company had found that more and more suburbs were turning towards private security because of its success. "Our model is using bigger vehicles that (are) more intimidating. We dedicate between one and two vehicles to a specific suburb," he explained. And if residents of a suburb are willing to spend more money, they install 360186 cameras to monitor the roads. "The way we work is to monitor 800 homes per vehicle or 250 homes per vehicle, depending on the suburb. Because there are not a lot of major routes that we cross, we can ensure that the patrols are regular and the response time is minimal." They started their business in Athol and Illovo. Now CSS monitors 15 suburbs. CSS Tactical's presence in the area meant a drastic decrease in crime, he said. Dunkeld, for example, the company's "most covered" area, has two dedicated patrol vehicles and 44 cameras monitoring roads. As a result, crime incidents have come down dramatically - from 12 to 18 incidents before its presence to three incidents a month now that the company is patrolling there. Croock said CSS presence in the suburbs had caused a "water bubble" effect. "The visibility displaces crime and pushes it into the surrounding suburbs with less security and residents (in those with the company's presence) feel more secure." Liza de Wit, chair of the Melville Resident's Association, explained the logic behind residents association hiring private security companies in their area. "Crime was out of hand. People started leaving Melville because of the crime. Police estimated Melville had the highest crime rate in the precinct. We needed to control issues in suburbs. The police are resource-constrained and they cannot be here all day long. We wanted to start like living here again." So they bought private security, De Wit said. Although she would not disclose exactly what their monthly bill was, she said it ranged between R70 000 and R120 000. "It is daunting that residents need to resort to this, but it is a lifestyle thing. "But we are cleaning up the suburb as well. We are creating a Melville brand." She compared the dedicated vehicle to the Melville police station, a small satellite station linked to Brixton, which monitored several other areas. "The police need us on the roads as an extra pair of eyes and we need police back-up. There is a blatant need for it. Security has been a big problem," she said. Constable Mashudu Kha-phathe agreed with De Wit - the police monitoring Melville area had many other focus areas. Aside from Brixton, the suburb's police also monitor Vrededorp, Crosby, Mayfair, Mayfair West, Auckland Park, Hursthill and Rossmore. "Each area has their own problems. In Vrededorp its assault, in Crosby we have a squatter camp, so its assault too. In Melville we have theft of motor vehicles, in Brixton we have theft of motor vehicles, in Mayfair we have burglaries." "Each shift has two cars with two officers in the various areas. Then there are also crime-prevention vehicles. We have one condo and three cars that patrol and attend to alpha complaints." Cont /2 . . .