In a nutshell
The MeMeZa Community Alarm System initiative contributes towards the prevention and reduction of crime and violence in impoverished, high crime areas in South Africa. It promotes community safety through an integrated approach, ensuring participation and cohesion of communities. In short, it brings people together and mobilises communities in times of need.
What we do
Background to the initiative
In 2012 the South African Police Service (SAPS) in the Honeydew Cluster approached the Innovation Hub, through the Centre for Public Service Innovation, with the view to seek solutions to the crime in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg. Three of the main challenges faced by SAPS in Diepsloot were identified. These challenges were, namely:
- It took up to 48 hours for a crime to be reported;
- Most crimes took place during the night and the victim’s mobile phone was often stolen, which consequently negatively impacted on their ability to report the crime; and
- There were often long delays before crimes were reported - this significantly hampered the criminal investigation and reduced the police’s ability to arrest suspects.
Among many solutions developed at the Innovation Hub, the MeMeZa initiative came up as the most promising solution. The MeMeZa initiative was driven by the need to pro-actively alert the police of an imminent crime.
About the MeMeZa Community Alarm System
The MeMeZa Community Alarm System initiative involves an intelligent pre-paid GSM based alarm system, which has a unique sound, siren and strobe light. The alarm links directly with SAPS, Community Policing Forums (CPFs), street patrollers and street committees and pro-actively alerts them of an imminent crime. The alarm also communicates via SMS with neighbours, family, street patrollers and CPF members. The alarm system is controllable from the owner’s cell phone. Its simple design makes it easy to use; even for kids, the elderly and individuals with disabilities. The alarm has a 24-hour battery life, and it comes with a solar panel, on request.
How it works
The home alarm can be activated either manually, through a remote control, or automatically when an individual unlawfully enters the home. When triggered, the alarm’s system will generate SMSs to the local police sector vans, CPF personnel and any other persons nominated by the home owner. Simultaneously, the alarm’s bright red light will flash. That will enable SMS recipients and passers-by to easily identify the house where help is sought.
Pilot in Diepsloot
In April 2014, SAPS Diepsloot was part of a team that tested the MeMeZa alarms at the Innovation Hub, Pretoria. The alarm was launched at the Innovation Hub on the 1st of April 2014, attended and endorsed by the MECs for Economic Development, the Honourable Eric Xayiya and the MEC for Community Safety, the Honourable Faith Mazibuko, and SAPS Gauteng.
On the 1st of April 2014, MeMeZa Community Safety formally announced its intention to distribute Community Alarms in Diepsloot.
How we do it
The MeMeZa Community Alarm System is founded on three key strategies, namely: a community-based approach to crime eradication; fighting crime through awareness; and strengthening communities through job creation.
- Community-Based Approach to Crime Eradication
The core value and differentiator of the MeMeZa Community Alarm System is defined by MeMeZa Community Safety’s belief in a community-based approach towards eradicating crime, specifically in lower income communities and informal settlements. MeMeZa believes that empowering communities to self-police, through deploying tailor made tangible security solutions, with a direct link to SAPS and CPFs will eradicate and even eliminate crime. MeMeZa also believes in providing security measures both inside and outside the home, to ensure that family, friends, SAPS and CPFs can be notified anytime there is an emergency. Ultimately, the whole community works together to provide a safer environment for their loved ones.
- Fighting Crime through Awareness
Providing tangible security solutions is not enough to fight crime in today’s world. Alongside the MeMeZa Community Alarm System initiative, MeMeZa conducts awareness campaigns and provides counselling services. These campaigns and services address topics such as bullying, gender-based violence and crime prevention. MeMeZa believes that it is imperative that the vulnerable are aware of the dangers of the world and understand what measures to take to protect themselves.
- Strengthening Communities through Job Creation
MeMeZa’s focus is on vulnerable communities, ensuring that the poorest of the poor and the most vulnerable people in South Africa can lead safe and fulfilling lives. Community empowerment through job creation is one of MeMeZa’s key strategies, with MeMeZa passionately believing in providing business opportunities to members of the communities it works in.
What we have achieved
- 2 200+ MeMeZa Community Policing Alarms installed in vulnerable communities.
- 70 000+ MeMeZa Personal Alarms distributed to vulnerable women, children, elderly people and people with disabilities.
- 90+ Public Schools, ICT and Food supplies protected through MeMeZa Community Policing Alarms linked to SAPS Sector vehicles, CPFs and communities.
- 21 permanent jobs created, and 16 community youth-based jobs created, since the start of the project.
- 65+ police stations nationally working with MeMeZa, supporting the project through direct linkages to SAPS sector vehicles.
- 99.8% theft prevention rate of ICT and food for feeding schemes in public schools.
- 7-12 min average response time nationally, measured where SAPS Sector vehicles respond to MeMeZa Community Policing Alarms installed in vulnerable communities.
- 98% positive feedback from schools on improvement in relationships with SAPS and CPFs.
- A project was undertaken with White and Green Doors, which involved the safeguarding of Safety Shelters by supplying them with Memeza Community Policing Alarms, with a direct link to SAPS, CPF and community stakeholders. This project, which was funded by Vodacom, resulted in the securing of over 150+ shelters, nationally.
What we have learned
- With this type of project, it is key to ensure public and private partnerships are cemented up front. Further, it is key to have an integrated approach to project deployment and solution development.
- Partners and stakeholders must always stay updated and one must focus on building healthy, long term relationships, with all parties seeing the value of the project - this includes the communities the project serves.
- Sponsorship and funding of social initiatives can become a risk, and it is therefore always good to have long term partners on board, who are dedicated to the project. These partners include government and the private industry. Some of MeMeZa's long term private industry partners include Vodacom, Hewlett Packard and SA Breweries. MeMeZa is always open to new partnerships, in order to take the project forward and widen the project’s footprint.
- When working with communities and specifically when working in the crime prevention sector in communities, it is important to always keep one's ears to the ground to ensure that one is always a step ahead of criminals.