Having lived in Onrus for almost two decades, it often saddens me to remember what a friendly, quiet and safe neighbourhood it used to be. The house we bought had no walls around it and we did not even have burglar-proof bars or security gates (what a welcome change from living in Johannesburg!).

My wife and I used to sit on our front stoep in the late afternoon and watch people walking past with their dogs, sometimes stopping for a neighbourly chat. Children rode their bicycles to the beach and went swimming, unsupervised by parents. It was like the good old days when parents did not always have to know where their children were, so long as they were home for dinner or when it started to turn dark.

That has all changed now, alas! We have not only burglar-proofed our house but also installed an alarm system with armed response. A wall has gone up and we can no longer see what’s happening in the street. People no longer pop in when they see we are home and instead have to ring a bell and identify themselves before we open the gate.

Don’t get me wrong – we still love living in Onrus. It is a great community and people still care about one another and their environment. Just look at the wonderful work done by all the different organisations and individuals, especially those who started the OnVerWag Neighbourhood Watch to keep us all safe. Giving freely of their time without remuneration, they have been working tirelessly to improve our neighbourhood and combat the rise in crime.

The latest initiative undertaken by these upstanding citizens is the application to have Onrus and Vermont declared a Special Ratings Area (SRA). What a pro-active way to ensure that this unique area is looked after properly, kept clean and protected from criminal elements. It is thus with great enthusiasm that I went to the public meeting last month where Abner Ingels of OnVerWag and the SRA Steering Committee patiently explained the process to residents – and the benefits we would all reap if we supported this initiative.

I was frankly astonished by the many negative comments from those who attended and couldn’t help wondering why they were so resistant and downright distrustful. It’s as if they suspect that they are somehow being taken for a ride, while all the SRA will do is improve their lives! I am not a wealthy man but even I can see that an additional levy of about R30 per month is not going to make me any less wealthy! How is it that people don’t realise they will be getting so much for so little?

Just think of how your property will increase in value if the neighbourhood is upgraded and deemed clean and safe by buyers? Come on, people, stop focusing on the obstacles and embrace the solutions.

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