Monday 14 June 2021
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Who is watching who?

Neighbourhood Watches have gained a lot of popularity since their inception with the assistance of Inspector Christina Fonsech in 2012.
The aim of the police in the Khomas region is to create a link between NamPol and the community.  It makes for quicker response times and makes communication with the police easier.
The groups are headed by volunteers who are of the most active members in the communities, although some have faced criticism for being ‘racist’ and are facing hostility from their own community members particularly in Pioneerspark and Cimbebasia.
There is no doubt that every Neighbourhood Watch group is doing some good and making a difference while having an impact in their communities especially where they have high visibility and cooperation from the police and individual community members.
But what happens when these groups and platforms are abused?
What happens when neighbours abuse the platforms to lambast and blast and effectively embarrass each other on the very platform that requires them to be watchdogs for their community?
Such abuses and biases are dealt with in the community itself and if unresolved, the police may be called in to assist.
Often personal feelings and resentments creep in and are then cause for feelings of ill-treatment since the groups are appraised by the very members themselves.
The Patriot posed some questions to Kauna Shikwambi, the Chief Inspector responsible for public relations in the Namibian Police and learned that a neighbourhood watch is owned solely by the community in which it operates. It is further linked to the police though a subset of crime prevention strategies which include community policing.
There is no specific provision for them in the law, however crime prevention is a function of the constitution and is covered in the laws as such.
Because crime naturally migrates to less policed areas, there has been a reduction in the rate of crime in areas where neighbourhood watches are active and an increase in crime where there are no such watches established.
As an individual, a member of a neighbourhood watch may arm him- or herself legally but as a group it may not carry arms.
This is underscored by the Namibian law that does not allow members of the public to take the law into their own hands. Thus also preventing that these watches become vigilante groups.
According to Shikwambi citizen’s arrests can be executed and is provided for under Section 42 of the Criminals Procedure Act.
This is permissible for a schedule 1 offence committed in the presence of the citizen.
“The police are already involved in assisting neighbourhood watches.  These groups work hand in hand with the police.
They share information and they have a common objective to prevent crime,” says Shikwambi.
The police thus encourages the community to start or join neighbourhood watch groups and stand up to fight crime in their neighbourhoods.

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