Curbing Crime in Clarens

CURBING CRIME IN CLARENS WITH THE SECTOR POLICE FORUM

Have you ever wondered, by way of a rhetorical question, why Clarens is comparatively crime free? To start with, look at the evidence. In December 2014/January 2015, only two crimes in Upper Clarens were brought to the attention of the Clarens SAPS: An attempted housebreaking in Collet Street and an unreported bicycle theft from the Clarens Backpackers. In a situation where close to 5000 visitors per day were strolling the streets of the village, climbing its conservancy trails or rafting its white waters, this is simply extraordinary.

Granted, there was also a partially successful SAPS drug-bust at a Clarens watering hole in early January 2015; neither do these statistics take account of the situation in Kgubetswana. That said, for a tourist town on the Lesotho border, in an economic downturn, it is remarkable compared with the situation one year before: Over Christmas 2013 and New Year 2014, Clarens recorded 12 break-ins, drunk driving, domestic violence and incidences of violent confrontations in various nightclubs.

Why the decline? One key reason is the presence on the Clarens streets of the Sector Police Forum (SPF) patrols (Kgali, Phillip and Patricia) as well as Stephen Vorster on mobile patrol with his mountainous dog, Fifi. This presence, part of the SAPS three-tier crime prevention structure, has contributed in no small measure to a community-led response to crime and its early prevention. The drug-bust referred to above was carried out on the strength of SPF intelligence, for example. With limited exceptions, the lack of vagrants on the Clarens Square is due to SPF vigilance and gentle persuasion. In short, this presence on the ground provides the eyes and ears so critical to early warning and detection of crime, from whatever source.

The SPF essentially covers the 14 blocks of the Greater Clarens area, with one member responsible for each one of these. To do this work, and consequently suppress the incidence of crime exponentially, the SPF relies on community contributions. Ironically, as crime goes down, contributions fall; quite the opposite of what this tourist destination needs and requires. Clearly, decline in crime statistics benefits all the town’s population, from business and guest house owners to retired citizens; equally, if these rates were to rise, the impact on the town’s business would be catastrophic. It does not take a great deal of introspection or wisdom to recognise that this effort requires everyone’s support.

What to do? In the first instance, everyone with the means should consider supporting the SPF in its mission to secure the town against a rise in crime. Plans are in hand for example to saturate Clarens with CCTV camera coverage as well as other surveillance methods, including the use of detection-radar. Any enquiries on making monthly contributions should be directed in the first instance to Chairperson Johan Lehman, on 083 4479925.

To confirm the SPF’s intent to raise the resources required to make the fight against crime a success, it has an ambitious fund raising programme on the table. First, over Valentine’s Day (13th and 14th February) the SPF will host the Harley Owners Group, or HOGS, as they are better known. This event will be hosted off the Square, on Market Street West, and include live music until 11:00pm; there will be no road closures, parking on Church Street and ablutions facilities will be brought into Clarens. Arguably most importantly, all the drinks involved will be locally-purchased, adding some weight to the local economy. All proceeds of this weekend will go to the SPF.

Second, on the 11th April, the SPF will host a Golf Day at the Clarens Golf Course, sponsored by Kia Motors and Maluti Radio. Kia is offering a Kia Picanto for a hole in one and other sponsors are required to ‘buy’ tee-boxes or greens. All proceeds go to the SPF and any enquiries may be directed to Dick Lemmer on 082 5776519.

Finally, the SPF’s third annual ‘MacNollie’ event will be held again on 5 September 2015. The event involves 3 sections, the first being traditional trout fishing on the Craig Rossie lakes; the second being long-rifle target shooting at the Bokport range; and third – also at Bokport – being clay pigeon shooting. Teams of 4 from all over the country will compete, at a cost of R6,000 per team (R10,000 including accommodation and another R1,000 per head for wives). The 2014 champions hailed from Bethlehem and the runners-up from Clarens. Further details may be found on the SPF website (www.macnollie.co.za) and contestants will hear the results at a gala dinner concluding the competition. Again, all proceeds will go to the SPF.

So, what next? The community of Clarens is enjoying an unprecedented decline in what is already a fairly crime-free environment, and to a large extent has the SPF to thank for it. If this is to continue, the SPF needs all the support it can get. It currently costs over R12,000 per month just to pay the costs of patrolling the ground, and does not take into account the capital and running costs of the surveillance systems planned for the town. You can assist in the effort to provide ‘visible-policing’ in Clarens and keep your town almost crime-free by making a contribution to the SPF. It is clearly in everyone’s interests and we urge you to join the fight against crime without delay.

Click here for SPF membership