Can bicycles hit the brakes on crime?
Can bicycles change the way we fight crime? Themba Phanyana believes so. An ordinary citizen who wanted to make his home safer, Phanyana joined the Youth Desk of the Soweto Community Police Forum (CPF) in 2013. Working with the police and other community leaders, he started monitoring the streets as a volunteer. But patrolling on foot soon took its toll on Phanyana, who was also studying at the time. Then he received a bicycle. What may seem like a small change has made a huge difference to his work.
“Before we got the bicycles we used to travel long distances,” Phanyana says. “Hey, walking is something else.” Now he has more energy to spend on the task at hand. The donation came from Qhubeka, a charity that uses bicycles to improve the lives of its beneficiaries. In this case it’s halting crime, as Phanyana is able to travel to where he’s needed most and apprehend criminals faster, with less effort. “My bicycle has enabled me to protect my community,” Phanyana says.
His decision to contribute to turning Soweto around came after a rise in substance abuse in his community. Young people in particular were affected and Phanyana vowed to become a role model to them. In the five years since he joined the CPF, Phanyana has grown into one of their most charismatic leaders. He hopes to use his position to bridge the gap between the community and the police, with the belief that everyone can contribute. “We invite everyone in the household to be part of the Community Policing Forum,” Phanyana says. “I think all South African communities can learn something from each other that will benefit our future.” Together with his bicycle, Phanyana is fighting crime and helping locals feel safe in the place they call home.