Anger as security control room moved

The dignitaries who supported the Real Idea, in Retreat. From left, mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, Valda Bosman, Colonel Jan Alexander, Premier Alan Winde, ward councillor Gerry Gordon, Mayor Dan Plato, ward councillor Marita Petersen and ward councillor William Akim.

Retreat residents are disappointed and say they feel betrayed by ward councillor Marita Petersen who facilitated the removal of the surveillance equipment from the “temporary” control room in Allenby Drive, Retreat, without consulting the community and partners of the Real Idea project, on Monday August 3.

The control room forms part of the the Real Idea project initiated nine years ago by founder and co-ordinator Mark Solomons, who was chairperson of the Retreat/Steenberg Civic Association (RSCA) at the time.

Mr Solomons said they had worked hard to launch the project, from forming a relationship with the community to getting support from schools, churches, neighbourhood watches, residents associations and businesses as well as City officials and SAPS.

But the community now wants to know why it was not consulted about the control room’s relocation to Military Road, Steenberg.

The Real Idea, which Southern Mail reported on as far back as 2011, is a community project aimed at social development through community driven projects. It also pushed for the establishment of a camera surveillance systems which would provide evidence to relevant enforcement agencies, maintain public order, prevent anti-social behaviour and nuisance, provide reassurance, to promote economic well being and aid fire detection and safety.

The objective was to partner with SAPS, law enforcement agencies, ward councillors and community stakeholders.

The Real Idea aimed to have a facility in walking distance for SAPS to access CCTV footage as needed and to provide a solution for safe monitoring of emergency vehicles entering the area. They wanted to have one safe monitoring facility in the area of Steenberg SAPS precinct.

However, the control room has been moved outside the Steenberg SAPS policing precinct to an area that falls under Muizenberg SAPS’ jurisdiction.

Colonel Jan Alexander, station commander of Steenberg SAPS, said he had hoped the control room would be moved closer to the police station. “I do respect her (Ms Petersen) prerogative but most importantly the moving had broken up the partnership between the role players of the project.”

Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson of the Steenberg CPF, said he didn’t understand why the control room had been moved.

“The CPF was not officially party to any discussions in this regard,” he said.

Magdalene Jordaan, exco member of RSCA, also voiced her concerns.

“She can move it but I feel bad that she never consulted or set up a meeting with us to let us know. I was part of this Real Idea from the beginning. I am disappointed and sad but we as the RSCA will have to go on working for our community.”

Marvin Lombard, chairperson of Boundaries Neighbourhood Watch said: “If they move the control room to Muizenberg precinct it will be a big loss for the people within Steenberg. A lot of criminals have been reported to that control room especially when there is robbery and in future to have more cameras. I heard about the Real Idea, at the beginning of the years through the civic association. A good idea and a well put together project. However, as far as reporting crime we will now have to make reports (to SAPS) via WhatsApp.”

Glen Paulsen, a resident, said “a lot of money, time and effort had been put into this project over the nine years and removing the control room without consulting the public nor any of the role players was totally madness and senseless”.

He added: “The removal of the control room now causes a major loophole into our security system.

“The councillor should realise that not only was it an expensive exercise removing equipment it was also a lot of money wasted, that comes out of the public’s pockets.”

Mr Paulsen added that “the person who made this project work and who really put his shoulder to wheel was Mark Solomons”.

“You should be talking to him,” he noted.

And Mr Solomons too, is upset about the move.

“I would like to express my disappointment,” he said.

“The Real Idea’s control room in Retreat had always been a temporary location because the idea was to have a better facility close to Steenberg SAPS.”

Mr Solomons said they had been looking at using land closer to Steenberg police station. “Close to SAPS where the community and Metro would have involvement in it. CPF, neighbourhood watches and the community would have had better access and interaction with SAPS in combating crime,” he said.

“The whole idea was to have a localised control room within the precinct of the police station that supports the CPF and neighbourhood watches and community be linked to a master control room in either Goodwood or there were talks of having a master control room in the southern suburbs.

“In order to make this project work we need good partnership and one of the biggest problems is that we cannot link our cameras to the control room anymore. So, the move does not make sense because the community’s involvement had been taken away.”

Wayne Le Roux, acting executive director for Safety and Security, said the the Metro Police Department was planning a control room to incorporate all City cameras in the area. “Once this is established, we envisage to bring all cameras under one structure, but also provide the neighbourhood watches access to monitor their own areas, when they have time to execute camera monitoring,” he said.

“The control room in question would therefore fall into this bigger plan.

“In addition, the existing venue has experienced leaks and electricity interruptions, which impact on the safety of staff and equipment, as well as monitoring activities,” said Mr Le Roux.

Despite Southern Mail’s numerous attempts to get a response from Ms Petersen, we have not yet heard from her on this matter. We first contacted her when we heard rumours about a possible move in June. Since then Ms Petersen has repeatedly promised to comment on the matter – but she has not done so.