Cameras do cut crime – The Pinetree Crescent Story

Just over a year ago Pinetree Crescent was hit with a consistent streak of house & car break-ins. Fed up and frustrated we called for a street meeting to discuss what we could do as a collective. In this article I’d like to shine light on the 4 major phases that followed to bring us to where we are today. Spoiler Alert, we sleep better at night now.

1.The Night Watch

From our initial street meeting we implemented a “watch group”, a break-off from our regular Street Whatsapp Group. “Watching Pinetree” was made up of about 12 DPV members that were willing to watch the street at night from 2-4am in weekly shifts, from the security of their homes. If a suspicious character was sighted we called it in on the radio. One or two “almost arrests” quickly came as the early success of this system. Suddenly our nightly visitors became more and more scarce, until they virtually didn't bother to enter our street any more. Crime was curbed to virtually nothing within two weeks. We had done it.

The problem however, was that this night watch, staring out the window waiting to see something, was highly disruptive and taxing on ones body and mind. And just as we stopped doing it, the unwanted characters reappeared on our street. 

2. Cameras instead of Eyes

We called for another street meeting, sharing our success and concerns in the hopes of inviting more people to the core watch group. Within our street, one resident offered his free time to help setup a custom-built alert-system. He worked out how to send a live alert to his phone as soon as someone triggers it between 12-5am. After successful tests with this alert system, we did a little street fundraising to install 2 more cameras at the entrances to the street. 22 Residents came to the party with R300 each raising around R7000 - enough for 2 “Street owned cameras” and a little change to spare. Other residents offered up their private cameras to the same alert system. Before we knew it we had 7 cameras connected to 22 resident's phones. All that was missing was a system to monitor the activity. 

A new Night-Watch roster was made and we became responsible for responding to alerts. The great thing is you can stay in bed, watch TV or work. If your phone pings, you check it and call it in if necessary. Over time the crime stats of Pinetree Crescent have gone done. Yes, we still have unwanted visitors and incidents, but we have a system in place to fight it. Over the last few months we have had quite a few arrests and many many more crimes have been prevented.

3. Who’s watching the cameras?

Just having the cameras on their own is not enough. One must be prepared to respond in real time. When you make night-walkers aware that we are aware of them, their potential for successfully committing a crime flies out the window.

Our Pinetree story doesn't end here. Once again we found ourselves in a situation where watching and waiting for alerts became unsustainable. People have work and lives… it still takes a toll staying up a night. And as time went on the responsibility fell on the shoulders of only the “very active members” amongst us.

We conducted a survey in the street to better understand how people feel about cameras and the ongoing necessity of a Night-Watch. Here are the results of that survey:

The conclusion was that we would be on standby to implement a roster when needed.
Then something new came into the mix!

4. Watchcom to the rescue

After chatting to Thorsten (Chairman of TBK Watch) we realised that we were missing an opportunity. Watchom has the capacity to watch for alerts and respond for you! We quickly set up a test run to see what would happen. That night, at around 1:30am the camera went off, Ping, someone was out there. Before any one of us could get up, check and respond, we heard the sounds of ADT coming to inspect. Watchcom had called it in. This was the start of a new era in Pinetree Crescent.

Watchcom has the capacity to monitor another 40 cameras. They are connected and plugged into the system. They make it possible for us to sleep peacefully, as we know when our phone pings, someone is going to do something about it. The system is not perfect yet and our input is still needed, but we have come along way and it was time to share this story with you, the rest of the DPV community.

The cost of connecting a camera is roughly R500 / month. In a street like Pinetree Crescent when we divide that amongst the 22 interested households it comes to only R300 for the year. We are planning fund to connect another camera to Watchcom in the near future..

If you have any questions about this system or the plans DPV has to help implement systems like this please contact contact@dpvwatch.co.za