Community Crusader: Gavin Henry

Gavin Henry has been involved with the Bedfordview Community Policing Forum (Bedfordview CPF) for about eight years, serving as Chairman for the last six years. The financial advisor and father-of-two runs the CPF as a volunteer to try and make a difference in the community as well as limit the trauma of residents who are victims of crime.

Early life

Born in Len Oates avenue, Dunvegan, Henry attended Bedfordview Primary school, St Benedict’s and finished school as a boarder at Christian Brothers College, Pretoria (now CBC Mount Edmund).

What inspired you to join the Bedfordview CPF?

At the time, former president Thabo Mbeki stated that South Africa did not have a crime problem, but I felt differently, and so I decided to get involved and see for myself. The Bedfordview CPF Chairlady at the time lived in my road and I went along to a meeting to find out the reality.

I discovered that Bedfordview police station is old and not fit for purpose – it is actually the original Bedfordview Primary School. There were corrupt police members and also some good police officers. I felt the good ones needed our help and support. The morale of the members was very low, and this was made worse by the general public’s perception that they were all corrupt and useless.

Which community projects are you involved in that you are most excited about, and why?

We’ve invested over a million rand of the community’s money in the LPR camera project, and they have had a direct benefit for us all. As a result of the smart cameras, together with residents’ CCTV cameras, we have apprehended and arrested at least 50 wanted criminals. However, the system is expensive to run, costing about R20,000 per month, and we continue to ask for funding from the community to keep them running. Donations to the CPF do qualify for a section 18A tax certificate.

During the lockdown, we’ve organised a mask initiative consisting of community members who volunteered to make face masks, which we have distributed to the needy and essential service providers. We have distributed over 6000 masks thus far. We have also been involved in a food parcel programme, where donated funds have been used to distribute food to those in need. Another volunteer programme we’ve run is called Commit to Knit, whereby residents have knitted blankets – we have distributed over 50 blankets thus far.

What goals do you have for the community?

1. Reinforce our partnership between SAPS and the community to ensure protection and a better quality of life.

2. Ensure that the police address the primary needs of the community and are accountable to those needs.

3. Enhance the quality of information available to the police in order to develop a proactive and problem-solving approach to crime.

4. Looking at introducing artificial intelligence (AI) as a means of criminal monitoring and control.

5. Enhance the public’s confidence in the police.

6. Inspiring police officers to interact with the community in a manner that respects local values.

7. Strive to align the values of the police with those of a democratic South Africa.

What has been your greatest achievement as Bedfordview CPF Chairman?

The unification, education and resultant support from the community. I have the most amazing executive team of concerned residents with such diverse skills. They consult on everything, and their single shared goal is the reduction of crime in the area through existing legal structures.

How has Bedfordview and the areas you serve changed over the years? 

Some things I remember are:

When Angus road was first tarred when I was a child, there was such excitement, because we could race ‘boats’ (sticks) down the road after a storm.

Chasing the sheep in Calder’s Nursery (now Calders Road), which we could never catch. I don’t know what we would have done if we did catch them! I remember riding my bicycle to school, especially in winter – boy was the Oriel dip on Kloof road cold!

I have fond memories of riding horses on the corner of Angus and Smith road, and I remember when Eastgate was first built. The new side of Bedford Centre used to be a mine dump. There was also the roadworthy and driver’s licence centre, which is now the Nicol Hotel.

What would you like to see improved on in these areas?

I’d like to see Bedfordview restored to the upmarket suburb it is. The pavements need to be repaired so that runners do not break a leg running on them, potholes should be fixed and old infrastructure needs to be maintained or replaced.

I’d also like the police station to be upgraded. It is so old, and indeed, they have had a couple of fires break out due to the old wiring. It would also be nice if we could get our SAPS vehicles replaced. We are short of at least six vehicles, as well as the members to drive them.

What advice do you have for people to get more involved in the community?

It is no longer enough to throw up our hands and think everything is broken – there are many good police officers who serve the community. Please support the CPF, either through your time and skill, or simply financially. 

There’s a quote by Eckhart Tolle: ‘When you complain, you make yourself a victim. Leave the situation, change the situation or accept it. All else is madness.’ Let’s choose to change the situation.

What are your passions? 

I am passionate about fighting crime and keeping criminals as far from the community as possible.

What is your favourite restaurant/place to eat in Bedfordview? 

I take my kids for supper weekly and we usually alternate between Vini’s, Doppio Zero and Yamitsuki. I also like the restaurants in the new side of Bedford Centre. Breakfast at The Giglio on Van Buuren road is superb.

Other interests

I used to fly a lot, and have 1000 hours on my pilot’s licence on various types of Microlights and light aircraft. I now enjoy long motorcycle rides throughout Southern Africa, which costs a bit less. I’ll probably get back into flying as my son grows up – hopefully we can fly together.

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