Open letter October 2010

Open letter published on BKM web site
October 2010
Dear fellow BKM member

As a founder of BKM watch, I have read, watched and listened to the recent ongoing publicity regarding BKM. I now believe it is time that I added my voice, concerns, worry, feelings and extreme disappointment regarding a number of aspects. I helped to formulate and get BKM off the ground after my 2 sons were brutally attacked and robbed at gunpoint in our quiet Meadowridge home at 08h30 in the morning some years ago. Yes, I too, had then, the mindset so clearly displayed by many of our fellow residents. Leave me alone, nothing will happen to me or my family, why should I get involved in the crime watch, let the others do it, I do not have the time anyway, I pay taxes to the state and so the police must protect us. Well, how wrong I was. After being told that the robbers would probably get bail, I decided to do something. In a nutshell the rest is history – even though the firearm used was never found, 2 of the robbers were sentenced to 61 and 50 years respectively.

A wonderful, caring and sincere resident named Brian, approached me with a view to expanding and enhancing the existing crime watch. Well, things did not quite pan out so we started BKM. I will never forget that first public meeting in Nov 2006, where the Bergvliet High School hall was filled, yes filled. After the meeting, concerned residents got together again and again, incredible people, passionate about their own families’ safety and that of the single and aged. During the following meetings, groups were identified, zones demarcated, structures set up, deals done for a radio network and more. BKM was born. How sad, that today, most people take for granted a theft out of a motor vehicle, or a house break-in. How long before we casually accept and say “my neighbour got murdered last night”!

After many meetings and dealings with SAPS, I really wanted to know how they operated, to understand, to judge for myself, and thereby be equipped with the knowledge to provide clear direction to BKM patrollers just what the real issues and problems relating to SAPS service delivery were. So, for over a year, I battled to become a reservist, and could not understand that SAPS were ignoring a volunteer. Later I began to think that certain individuals did not want someone who may cramp their style at the station. Eventually they “found” my application and training started. Well, in the past 16 months I and a partner/s have been personally involved in over 250 arrests; 11 x drug arrests and 2 x illegal firearm arrests (imagine how many court days this requires me to away from my business and family – more than a whole year), and I have devoted in excess of 1000 hours during this period (officially as SAPS excluding attending meetings, getting vehicles fixed or washed etc). It boggles my mind that some people think there is no crime in our area.

With the greatest respect to all, the comments recently made by National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele - (see article http://www.bkmwatch.org.za/News_View.aspx?Articleid=565  ) - are exactly what we as community members, CPF and NW patrollers have been stating for years. Yet when some of us stand up for what we believe in, for fundamentals and suggestions that we believe will make a difference, especially if they are in line with national SAPS policy, we are shouted down, spoken about behind our backs, told we are being political, even victimised at times. Most people become active community members through N/Watches and/or becoming reservists because deep down they truly care about their community and their own families, friends and their safety, further hoping that even a little will go some way to securing a better future for their own limited life span and that of their children and children's children.

When are some people going to get off their egos, get down to some real work. Imagine if everyone was just a little more courteous, a little more understanding, gave that 10% extra effort into everything they did - what a difference that would make. We, as residents, community leaders, NW patrollers and reservists have a very important role to play. We have accepted the responsibility given to us, and we must use that trust responsibly and for the greater good. There are some wonderful people out there, we MUST nurture and protect them. Stand up for what you believe to be right. NEVER NEVER give up. As we volunteers are held accountable, so too MUST we hold those responsible accountable.

To quote from a very dear friend of mine -
"The National Constitution is perfectly clear in the provision of safety and security to every citizen of our country, and I am sure that any public minded person would be prepared to assist the authorities in achieving this. However it is the government of the day, which is responsible and should be taking that responsibility and not passing it onto the very citizens that the government is constitutionally liable to protect. It would appear that the government wants the citizens of the country to serve them instead of the government serving the citizens of the country, who are actually paying for such."

However, even given the above, there is a time when you tell yourself that enough is enough. I always said that when politics entered the BKM arena, I would be out. I have truly been embarrassed, hurt, shocked, and astounded at the way many residents who I and others have so diligently protected, worked for as volunteers, have so candidly stated how great BKM is, yet many are the same people who find the time to so viciously expound on their viewpoints regarding the CID both in the media and public meetings, abusing and attacking the volunteer members of the Steering committee as if they were the enemy. NO – they are not the enemy, the criminals and the dysfunctional system are the enemy. Members of this group, the steering committee did not suck the idea of a CID out of their thumbs. I have been clearly told that the very idea of a CID was started many years ago by the honorable late DR Craythorne and the Bergvliet Ratepayers Association. It did not get supported then, so no problem. They canned the project.

Some years ago during a strategy session, members of the BKM management identified through then current and other historical evidence, that the establishment of a CID MIGHT be an option to consider, especially in light of the increase in unemployment, criminal intent, drugs, prostitution and more, especially with the expectant shelf life of passionate and active N/Watches. How were we going to ensure (1) sustainability, and (2) find a way in which to get all residents involved especially those freely riding on the backs of volunteers and not contributing to the safety net in any way at all, not even a letter of thanks. I know most of the steering committee members well, they are decent people, residents like you and I, mums, dads and more. They have concerns like us all, they are legitimate people with no interest financial or otherwise in the proposed CID other than offering a possible solution to the problems of crime in our area. If I understand the CID concept, why is it so difficult to grasp for some. If you do not want it for what ever reason, do not sign the consent form. But DO NOT shout, abuse or slate people who have gone out of their way to produce an alternative solution. Have you offered advice, have you offered an alternative solution, and have you joined and are you an ACTIVE member of your N/Watch. Quite frankly if 75% of residents were active BKM members in one way or another, perhaps the very idea of a CID would never have been discussed. I was amazed when I called a writer to the local media, and in this open letter this person slated the idea of a CID, but praised BKM and their patrollers, even suggesting that donations were great. I took the time to call the writer, only to find out that although he/she is a BKM member, he/she has never booked a N/Watch patrol and neither deposited even R10 to the N/Watch account to assist with running costs. This individual is a very strong canvasser opposing the CID, and I fully respect their own views, so I asked that whilst knocking on doors, we would appreciate it if they could utilize and maximize the time by handing BKM membership and enrolment forms to people that were not members. To date the individual has not delivered one BKM application form to me. So, you may be quite correct, you never asked me or us to help, to start BKM, BUT you have happily accepted our help, at that crime scene, at the traffic accident, when the elderly were robbed and beaten to within inches of their lives, to herding the prostitutes out of the area so that they are not visible day and night to your children, to stopping them discarding their used condoms on the Meadowridge Common, to providing you with a little more peace of mind when you see those cars with the N/Watch decals and revolving orange lights, or when we have rung your doorbell at 2 am or asked ADT radio control to phone you to tell you that you have left your front gate wide open to the world.

In closing, if someone offers you a cookie, thank them, taste a little and tell them why you do not like it, offer a different recipe, or even show them how to bake it better, but do not abuse them and throw the cookie at them breaking both the cookie that they have sweated over as well as their pride and dignity.

Maybe it is time for me to stop using the radio and bake cookies at home instead.

Fondest regards
Tony Schreiber (B13)

PS – BKM will always be and is bigger than any one individual.

2 comments:

  1. Tony i couldnt agree with you more....no one else comes with solutions,but are quick to moan when something goes wrong. Maybe every resident who would like to be a member of BKM, should have to pay a monthly fee, like one would to a security company, a club of sorts, the ratepayers assoc etc. if that doesnt work, then all active BKM members should start a "baking club" instead and stop looking out for others who do nothing and rather enjoy fresh homebakes behind locked doors.....

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  2. If BKM or other neighbourhood watches were to stop operating - well - I can't even imagine how the crime levels, ranging from petty crime up to organized crime,would increase.

    The truth is SAPS don't have the support, manpower, equiment let alone an incentive to carry out the tasks that they signed up for when they swore an oath to "serve & protect".

    The Government doesn't & quite frankly isn't going to provide SAPS with the support, manpower, equipment & definately not any incentive for our local officers to carry out the crime prevention services that we need.

    Thanks to all (you know who you are) who have given of their time, energy & often frustration in setting up, running, being involved in BKM & other neighbourhood watches - you are the type of neighbours anyone would be proud to have.

    To all who complain & moan - is that all you can do with your energy?
    Surely not - surely deep down inside you know that you should be patrolling or being involved in some other way.
    How about using all of that energy to "physically" do something within an established Neighbourhod Watch - beleive me - you will be welcomed with open arms, whoever you are.

    P.S. I am a father who:

    - Has 3 jobs
    - A wife & 4 x kids
    - Lives in a 2 bedroomed flat - with 4 kids !!
    - I study in the evenings / every evening
    - I cook all the meals at home
    - I help with homework
    - I help with cleaning (no nanny fo us)
    - I drive everyone everywhere as we have 1 x car

    Yet I still find the time to patrol the suburbs day & night, whenever I have a spare moment, & I do this all out of pure frustration, anger, desperation, etc

    That is how I am using my energy both negative & positive !!

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