Richmond Hill residents reclaim their streets SRA gains momentum

SEPTEMBER 15, 2015

Whether it’s assisting with a flat tyre or helping to apprehend a criminal, the recently established Special Rating Area (SRA) is cleaning up the streets of Richmond Hill in Port Elizabeth, backed by the Mandela Bay Development Agency’s (MBDA) mandate to ‘renew, revive and inspire’ the city.

A non-profit organisation and the first of its kind in the Eastern Cape, the SRA was established in April this year to improve services and safety, and thereby increase property values, in Richmond Hill. The concept has already proved highly successful in restoring residential suburbs in larger cities like Cape Town and Durban.

Richmond Hill SRA members make use of two-way radios to communicate with each other during neighbourhood patrols. Incidents are radioed in and logged with the South African Police Service (SAPS). The SRA’s clean-up unit helps keep the picturesque suburb looking lovely and litter-free too. In August, the team collected 995 black garbage bags full of trash and dumped them at a local tip.

Monthly community meetings are held with residents to hear their concerns and to share community information. The organisation also makes effective use of social media. A WhatsApp group, founded by community member Jan de Klerk, is used to report suspicious criminal activities and alerts SRA patrol vehicles, which regularly log excellent response times of less than two minutes.

Two Facebook pages, Richmond Hill Village Voice and a crime page, have been created as a platform for community members to reach out to each other and to give residents a platform to share their views and concerns.

De Klerk said he had seen “huge improvements” in the security and cleaning services in Richmond Hill. “I was against the SRA initially but without it we would have been worse off, so this has been a period of trial and error. And I do believe we are getting there. It’s going to take a lot of support from the municipality. The SRA is doing great things. We are truly grateful.”

“In August someone tried to break into my house but I notified the SRA security unit through WhatsApp and within seconds they arrived at my house. This gives me a sense of pride. Robbers in the area prefer to break in when you are there to get your bank cards and pin codes. We were tired of being kept prisoners in our own homes,” said Sue Hoppe, who lives in Richmond Hill.

Cheryleen Williamson, also a resident, said “The SRA is doing a wonderful job in many ways. The streets are cleaner and safer. I recently called the crime line and they were there within minutes. I have been living in Richmond Hill for ten years and knowing that help is finally a few minutes away is very comforting. These dedicated men are wonderful.”

“We are planning on starting our own recycling project, which will also create employment opportunities for unemployed youth. The MBDA has pledged to assist us with the fencing and containers,” said Kevin Slattery, SRA Director.

“As an attempt at preserving the historic value of Richmond Hill, the SRA monitors rezoning applications for businesses and the illegal use thereof. We pride ourselves in the property value, amongst other things, of Richmond Hill.

“Morné Steyn, Ward 5 Councillor, has been helpful with intervening when problems arise, for which we are truly grateful. We are in need, however, of more volunteers to broaden our membership. We need more people to take up the reigns and get involved, whether it be in helping the homeless or assisting with upcoming projects,” he said.

The SRA’s future plans include the establishment of a website, an anti-litter campaign and bigger bins to collect garbage, the adoption of a school in the area, a drug awareness campaign, as well as the establishment of an aftercare facility, where learners will be able to do homework. 

Image: Ready to serve: The Richmond Hill SRA crew, from left, Valentino Andrews, Elaine Looss, Robert Brewers, Kevin Slattery (SRA Director) and Wentzel van Vuuren, are ready to serve and protect.