By Charles Tjatindi
The establishment of a community neighbourhood watch at Narraville suburb here in Walvis Bay has been met with mixed emotions. The neighbourhood watch was established to assist the Erongo Police curb minor crimes such as housebreaking, pick-pocketing and common assault.
Despite the noble intentions, the future of this initiative hangs in the balance amidst cries from the local community that the initiative has failed its mandate.
Community members allege that the neighbourhood watch has deviated from its objectives and as such is failing in the fight against crime. Instead of doing regular rounds in the neighbourhood, the community alleges that the Narraville neighbourhood watch has resorted to terrorizing people and imposing unreasonable curfews in the suburb.
“You will just find that your car is stopped, and you are asked funny questions like where you are coming from this time of the night,” said Mario Diergaardt, a resident of Narraville.
Diergaardt noted that the community was also not informed in advance about the initiative.
“If I had known that there is now such a thing in practice, and that I should not be on the streets at certain times, I would not have consented to it,” he said, adding, “… now they just stop you and want to search your vehicle. I do not even know who they are.”
Others feel that the neighbourhood watch has not been of much help. They argue that although the idea is a noble one, the neighbourhood watch has seemingly diverted its attention from real crime to petty things.
“There are a lot of people that deal in drugs here in Narraville. They are all known to everyone – even the neighbourhood watch members. But instead of focusing on such cases, they stop people on the streets and ask you funny questions,” said a resident who preferred anonymity.
Efforts to reach the members of the organization proved futile.
The community of Narraville is not the first at the harbour town to contemplate the idea of community policing. A similar initiative has been in operation at the Meersig suburb for some time now, New Era was informed.
Most suburbs turned to this initiative after efforts to establish a municipal police force failed.
The idea to form a municipal police force was totally rejected by the Walvis Bay public during various surveys and public meetings which were hosted by the town council to gauge public opinion.
The major thorn in the realization of such an initiative was the proposed cost of N$175 per household and N$300 per business. The fees were shot down as exorbitant, even by those that favoured the idea.
Only 26% of households responded in the affirmative, while 74% refused to pay the N$175. In the business sector, 65% said no, while only 35% of businesses had no problem with the proposed fee.
Although initial surveys showed a positive response to the initiative with 58% in favour of a municipal police force, later surveys showed otherwise.
This prompted the municipality of Walvis Bay to scrap the idea, based on results of these surveys. The surveys were conducted between December 2006 and May last year.