When there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call? The most obvious answer is the Ghostbusters. But while the group of monster hunters may be suitable for extinguishing ghosts and ghouls, they may not be equipped to help you with problems you might face in your neighbourhood.
The good thing about South African neighbourhoods is that many structures exist to address specific issue.
From car break-ins to potholes, these are issues rife in any neighbourhood. However, when you find yourselves at the receiving end of these problems, it is often not clear whom to call for help or address the issue.
But not to worry, we have broken it down for you and list the most common structures in your neighbourhood, how they work and what they’re responsible for.
Here are a few examples of common situations that you might experience in your neighbourhood and who you should call.
Situation: You’ve just got home from a hectic day at the office and can finally put your feet. Dinner has already been served, the kids are in bed and you’re just about to turn on the television to catch the latest episode of the series you’re currently hooked on. That’s when you hear a loud bang followed by barking dogs and the shrill of a car alarm. YOUR alarm! You rush out to find your back seat window smashed and the laptop back you were going to fetch after dinner gone.
Who you gonna call? When you’re a victim of any crime, be it theft or assault, immediately call the police. The South African Police Services (SAPS) are mandated to combat and prevent crime. They can and must assist all victims of crime in bringing offenders to justice and ensuring a safe country.
It is imperative that ALL crimes, no matter how petty, are reported to the police.
Your neighbourhood falls under the responsibility of a specific police station, which is especially resourced to fight crime in your area. The resources they receive are based on the need of your area, and those needs are based on the incidents you report.
Apart from the general contact number for your local police station, each neighbourhood has a dedicated police patrol vehicle and sector manager. It is your right to have access to the contact number for the patrol vehicle and the cell phone number of your sector manager, who has to respond to your call when you’re a victim of crime.
Situation: It’s 1am on a Saturday morning and you have to be up at 6am to catch your flight for a conference. However, you have not been able to get any sleep because the pub in the next road has been blasting its music since 10pm the previous night. This is the fifth weekend in a row that you’ve been woken up by the noise and pleas to the owners to turn down the music have fallen on deaf ears.
Who you gonna call? Noise is regulated by municipal by-laws and metro police officers or law enforcement officers deal with excessive noise complaints. These officers are the city’s “police force”.
Although similar to SAPS metro police do not have the power to investigate cases but can assist the police in combating crime. They do have the power to arrest, search and fine perpetrators.
When dealing with noise complaints, Metro police can confiscate sound equipment and fine the owners of the establishment. They can also escalate the complaint to the police.
The metro police officers fall under the municipality’s safety directorate, who can be contacted to find out which officers operate in your neighbourhood.
Situation: The clock has already hit 8am and you still haven’t got the kids to school. The morning has been a rush and you are finally out of the house. You drop the kids off but need to hurry back home for your files before going to your meeting. As you turn onto your street, you hit that pothole you carefully avoid every day. The potholes has grown is size since the first time you saw it a few months ago and is now big enough to give you a puncture. This little accident will not only cost you time but money you didn’t budget for. If only someone would fix that pothole already.
Who you gonna call? The maintenance of the roads in your neighbourhood is the responsibility of the municipality. But while the city has so many issues to deal with, the possibility of your complaint being sorted out seems slim.
However, this is not the case. Municipal issues such as potholes can be raised with the ward councillor you recently elected to represent your area. Your ward councillor is your voice in the council and has to lobby for service delivery in your area.
Ward councillors have to be accessible to all resident in their ward and have to hold the municipal accountable on your behalf. Make sure you know who your ward councillor is and how to contact them. They have to ensure that services such as maintained roads are delivered.
Situation: You’ve just finished sweeping your driveway when the wind picks up blowing all the litter in the street right onto your property. The streets have been strewn with litter for days now and the municipality’s cleaning crew is only scheduled for your area next week.
Who you gonna call? Luckily you live in a special ratings area and have an active Improvement District. In areas with Improvement Districts, municipal services like street cleaning happen more frequently than the usual rotation.
Property owners in special rating areas pay an extra levy on their rates for this top-up service. You can therefore hold your improvement district to account when these services are not being delivered. Improvement district levy payers also have a say in how their levies are spent by becoming members of the improvement district and voting at meetings.
Situation: You have just received a letter in your post box about a nine-story apartment block that is going to be developed down the road. However, you think this is a horrible idea and will not fit into the character of the area. You’re also worried about the increase in traffic in the area and the noise and dust that will come from construction. But you have no idea how to go about contesting this development; you are just one person after all.
Who you gonna call? Most neighbourhoods have active ratepayers or civic associations, which are made up of ordinary residents just like you.
These groups, however, have the power of a collective voice and can oppose or lobby for matters affecting the neighbourhood. These groups are usually like-minded neighbours who have the interest of the neighbourhood at heart and are determined to improve it. Get to know your local civic groups and be a part of the improvement of your area.
Your friendly neighbours at OurHood.
Connecting neighbours, strengthening communities