With an inaugural committee meeting on August 13, 2009, the Gillitts Park Community Association was formed out of a need to combat the spiralling crime rates which we had been experiencing. With an average of two house-breakings or hijackings per week and three known professional housebreaker gangs in operation in our area, the residents of Gillitts Extension 1 (soon to be known as Gillitts Park) had had enough.
Such was the success of these initial efforts, that 9 suspects were caught-in-the-act and arrested in our area over a single month in 4 separate cases.
Where we are now
Ten years down the road we are widely acknowledged as being a stable and effective community association which goes above and beyond the simple neighbourhood watch of those early days. We have developed a set of systems and protocols for incident management which - lead by a diehard group of dedicated volunteers - have been working extremely well.
We have well established sub committees which support the three pillars we believe are vital to making a community association effective and sustainable, these are:
- The Neighbourhood Watch,
- Community Building
- The Management of our Environment
These three elements compliment each-other and work together to build a safe, secure, clean and green place for our community to thrive in.
A citizen patrol group has made an enormous impact on reducing criminal activity in the area. There is a group of some 68 patrollers who drive through the area when most of us are sleeping, link up with our neighbouring patrol groups and respond with security companies and SAPS as eyes and ears when anything suspicious is seen. This is managed on a day to day basis by Tracey Lynch and her close team, with Grant Laret overseeing the crime WhatsApp groups and vital database which allows us to be in contact with the majority of our community.
- We encourage all residents (whether they are contributing members or not) to be added to the Security WhatsApp group relevant to their street. These groups are strictly used for security and emergent issues and are monitored full time by our GPCA volunteer responders
- If you are not on one of these WhatsApp groups please phone the GPCA Ops phone: 071 624 2099
- Patrollers and responders have their own WhatsApp groups and also make use of the mobile app, Zello to make sure all necessary people are in contact.
- Relationships with Service Providers have ensured an excellent standard of service delivery, as well as well priced monitoring and armed response fees for new clients in the area.
- Relationships with neighbouring Neighbourhood Watches and CPF structures, allow us to collaborate seamlessly for "cross-border" incidents and to share successful programmes and ideas.
- The Camera Project is up and running with 11 existing cameras, with fundraising happening to introduce some more advanced technology to compliment the existing infrastructure.
Nice to have, but what does this have to do with security? We have been fostering a mindset of getting to know your neighbours because, simply put - people are invested in people they know and care about thus making it a vital factor in security.
If you know your neighbours and are aware of goings on in your area, you are more likely to look out for one another and notice when something out of the ordinary occurs.
We have nurtured these relationships in a variety of ways, and are extrordinarily pleased to see residents adopting this ethos and growing organically.
- Communication - from one community chat group, it spilt into 2, then again to 4 as more and more people began to embrace the community. It's evolved from there with a myriad of offshoot interest groups; from the walking group, to the birding group and the urban farmers, it really has grown by leaps and bounds from simple chat groups, to a community movement.
- Events - Over the years we have hosted several events, from scavenger hunts, to fun runs and fairs but our favourite is our annual Carols by Candlelight in the Ashley Dam Park. We also encourage streets to meet and have street braais to welcome new neighbours and get to know one another.
- Care Group - Our care group is made up of huge hearted and discreet volunteers and professionals. They look after those in our community who need support with everything from the recovery from car accidents, an elderly person who has had a fall, to addiction and abuse. We also have a safe house facility, if needed please call the GPCA Duty phone 071 624 2099 which is answered 24/7.
We are truly privileged to live in the beautiful urban nature reserve of Gillitts Park. As the indigenous forrest has returned to the valleys, we have seen a fabulous array of wildlife return to the area. It's not uncommon to see a duiker trotting down the road as it travels between green belts. If you are lucky you might even spot a porcupine or wild pig!
However, when areas get overgrown, it can prove to be a security issue. We aim to strike a balance between maintaining our natural environment and minimising security risk. We do this with 2 projects running concurrently - Clearing, and Planting.
- Clearing - By clearing overgrown entry points into our area, we are able to reduce the security risks. Examples of areas which we ensure are kept clear of undergrowth and maintained are:
- The walking route for staff from Edward Drive to the M13
- The rail reserve area from Camp Road through to Ashley Drive.
- Ashley Dam – the Ethekwini Parks Department now maintain this regularly and have installed benches for our enjoyment.
- Iphithi - This beautiful Nature Reserve is surprisingly large and humming with birds and wildlife. With parking, a braai area at the top and a lovely picnic area by the dam, it is a great place to take a walk with the family along the maintained paths. In order to access Ipithi you will need to call the number on the Ipithi gate.
- Sheila Place/Ashley green belt – this area is maintained by the Ethekwini Parks Department, as well as the bushy area on Sheila Place
- The Minerva grassland is also maintained by a combination of Gillitts conservancy
- Security Plants - You can build the thickest wall or the tallest, most electric fence but, nothing stops a suspicious character in his steps more than thick, very prickly plant. The Security Plant project has seen the strategic placement of unfriendly plants in problem areas and sneaky routes used by undesirables. There are many upsides to this project, the most prominent being that plants can provide the security measures needed, while not restricting the movement of our wildlife, with the added benefit that many of these plants provide fruit for the wildlife to eat too.