Increasing visible policing and sense of safety

The Tokai Forest Joint Security Patrol held a visibility safety patrol in dedication to International Human Rights Day and 16 days of activism at Lower Tokai on December 10, Saturday. Photograph: Nicky Schmidt/Parkscape.

Visible safety patrolling and increased boots on the ground is how a community based organisation working with police and security providers is actively collaborating to take its open spaces back.

On International Human Rights Day, Saturday, December 10 and to mark the end of the 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, Parkscape held its last Tokai Forest Joint Security Patrol for the year.

Parkscape chair, Nicky Schmidt said, “Gender-based violence is obviously one of the greatest acts of nullifying human rights or abusing human rights. We started Parkscape not as many people would like to believe to save the forest but because of an act of gender-based violence when Franziska Blöchliger was murdered in 2016.”

Parkscape organises the joint security patrols in Lower Tokai once a month in partnership with local neighbourhood watches, SAPS, Law Enforcement, private security providers, Kirstenhof Community Policing Forum and Metro Equestrian Unit. An additional weekly walk between Parkscape and Tokai Crime Watch takes place on Wednesday evenings.

Ms Schmidt says improved policing visibility has increased a sense of safety particularly for women park users and a community working together is what makes this initiative such a powerful entity.

“Parkscape with other patrollers are basically eyes, ears, and feet on the ground. That is our job, we are not any kind of law enforcement agency but a collective of the body which includes SAPS, law enforcement, and the neighbourhood watches. Which then works on different levels. We are boots on the ground, and they are the law enforcement officers.”

Ms Schmidt explains whenever patrolling members enter the forest, even for recreational purposes, they log on to the WhatsApp group to notify other members they are in the forest should anything happen, they are there to keep an eye. Schmidt adds that the tall canopied forest also provides its own sense of visible safety.

“We wear our bibs, so we are visible and visibility is an important part, people feel safe in knowing that somebody is there watching. If there is something that happens, they know that they can run to one of us and we also report on anything that we see and believe is suspicious. If there is an incident we alert, SAPS and the CPF,” said Ms Schmidt.

Kirstenhof CPF Chair, Geoff Bettison says that regular patrols have had a positive effect in the Lower Tokai Forest.

“There have been many incidents of car break-ins and isolated incidents of cellphones being stolen in the forest, but it has sort of quelled, it has gotten better because of visible policing. SAPS have been doing more regular patrols in the forest. We want to give the forest back to the people to make it a safe place for everybody to be able to walk, to try and show people that there is visible policing taking place in the forest where there wasn’t in the past.”

Mr Bettison says that Kirstenhof CPF hopes to encourage other CPFs and their police stations to follow this model of joint participation in visible policing

“There are about 18 stations that are bordering national parks. If all NHW, CPF, SAPS, Metro police, Law enforcement and all your security service providers jointly supported their policing footprint then we will cover the whole Table Mountain National Park.”

In honour of the memory of Franziska Blöchliger and other victims of gender-based violence patrollers tied a ribbon at an entrance of Tokai Forest. Photograph: Nicky Schmidt/Parkscape.