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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 July, 2004, 19:05 GMT 20:05 UK
SA crime-stoppers use 'evil eye'
By Richard Hamilton
BBC correspondent in Cape Town

Residents in the South African city of Cape Town are trying to reduce crime by staring at suspected criminals such as prostitutes and drug dealers.
Yellow Bibs, a neighbourhood watch group in Cape Town
Yellow Bibs members stare at suspects for up to 15 minutes

Three nights a week a group of up to 30 people from Sea Point go out, stand on the pavement and give wrongdoers "the evil eye".

Sea Point is notorious for crime and has a sleazy reputation, where groups of drug dealers can be seen lurking in alleyways and girls stand on street corners in miniskirts waiting for business.

The Yellow Bibs, as the neighbourhood group is known because of the uniforms they wear, say it only takes about 15 minutes before the people they watch start to feel uncomfortable and leave.

Shops re-open

The initiative was the brainchild of a local city councillor, JP Smith.

He is convinced that the presence of the residents has made a difference to the area since they started four months ago.

He says about 50 shops and local businesses have re-opened and criminal gangs have moved out of the area.

Councillor JP Smith
The prostitutes... got fed up and said they were going home to watch TV
City Councillor JP Smith
"We've drastically affected their core business, by reclaiming the streets for the residents," he says.

He hopes that more people will join the group so they can watch would be criminals every night of the week.

You might think the Yellow Bibs would be putting themselves in extreme danger, but they have a police escort and even a private security firm with them so they say they feel safe.

Unnerved

"No one has ever been physically abused although we have suffered verbal abuse from the prostitutes who have a very flowery vocabulary," says Mr Smith.

He explains how the residents' icy stares unnerved one group of sex workers recently.

"The prostitutes told me I couldn't stand there all the time," he recalls.

"I said of course, I could. They got irritated and left, but we followed them. They tried to sneak back, until they couldn't stand it anymore, so they got fed up and said they were going home to watch TV."

As well as cracking down on ladies of the night, the Yellow Bibs are also keeping a careful eye out for kerb-crawlers.

"We send the customer a picture of his car and a community service notice saying the car was seen in an area plagued by prostitution," says Mr Smith.

"If the guy's wife opens the envelope, it's not our fault!"




SEE ALSO:
SA gets tough on crime
07 Oct 03 |  Africa


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