After investing 6 years into the vison, establishment and founding of the Umngeni Community Safety Initiative (UCSI), Debbie Preston moves back into the educational space of making a difference in the lives of our youth.
The UCSI was born from the vision of Debbie Preston, then the Business Manager of Knight Security Solutions (KSS), and her husband Gary (owner of KSS). Their visualisation was to create a safer community using technology. In consultation with local municipal authorities and Safe City in Pietermaritzburg, the plan began taking shape in 2015. With insight from SA CAN (now TrackBox Technologies), the formulation of a monitored camera system in our uMngeni Municipal space began developing on paper. Persistence and the continued increase in crime drove Debbie to make this plan a reality. In late 2017 Brian Jones from TrackBox Technologies introduced Debbie to Grant Hancock, the CEO of Gatebook and SNIPR, and so the incredibly positive journey of the UCSI began!
After serious brainstorming discussions at Municipal level, it became evident that for a community project of this nature and scale to be established, it needed to be set up through a not-for-profit structure that could be run by the community, and endorsed by the Municipality. In June 2018, Debbie, together with local businessman Terence James, set up the legal structure and registered the UCSI as a Not-for-Profit Company (NPC). The UCSI has seen many successes and a vibrant, active Board of Directors over the past 3 years. The focus being the safety and well-being of our community! The support from authorities, primarily SAPS has been unquestionable, and the financial input and investment by the community from both urban and rural avenues has been instrumental in getting the UCSI network established. The UCSI continues to make headway and a positive impact on our local and surrounding communities. Partnerships with local and provincial authorities, business entities, the safety and security industry, community safety Initiatives, locally driven Community Police Forums and private individuals have been cemented since the UCSI inception almost 3 years ago. Says Brian Jones “I believe that the UCSI has and will continue to be the arrowhead community project that is the model for our nation. This unity between community, government and technology is something very positive, and with results that stand-alone, speak for themselves”.
Our gratitude to Debbie for her enormous energy and for creating an established, functional and sustainable UCSI. Our appreciation is heartfelt. We know her ultimate passion lies in education and community engagement, but we can never undervalue the considerable dynamism and value that Debbie has invested into the safety of our community space.
Debbie is an accomplished teacher, currently teaching at Epworth High School, and author of numerous textbooks and study guides for Shuter and Shooter. She is involved in active leadership of our youth, and in community upliftment and social justice awareness projects. Debbie has made the decision to step down from the Board of Directors of the UCSI, but remains involved in an advisory capacity. The Current Board of Directors, under the competent and invested leadership of Mr Themba Ndulini, founding member Terence James, together with Krish Ramkuber, Thandeni Zondi and Captain Myeni continue to make headway. The appointment of Shannon Naudé in August 2020, as the Director of Operations, was another positive move for the UCSI, which continues to engage and grow the UCSI network of SNIPR enabled gantry mounted CCTV cameras in our local and greater community.
Thank you Debbie for your vision, your vested interest and for all you have contributed to the UCSI and our community to date. You have touched more lives than you realise. We know this is not goodbye and that you remain invested, interested and passionate about community safety and the UCSI. Your valuable input will always be appreciated, respected and worthwhile.
Contributions from: Themba Ndulini (UCSI Chairman), Shannon Naudé (UCSI Operations Director), Kevin Wright (UCSI Board member 2019/20), Brian Jones (TrackBox Technologies), Grant Hancock (SNIPR), Renee Lanzoni (KSS) and Gary Preston (KSS).
I give everything I do 110% and have been in education since 1997. In 2014 I dived into the security industry to support my husband, Gary. I always believed and still do, that teachers can do anything, but my eyes were opened and I was almost not prepared for what I was diving into. A world of petty crime, organised crime, murder, the rape of women and children, planned “hits”, threats, hi-jacking, domestic violence, gun shots, car chases, fires, suicide, lies, deceit, cheating, trespassing, vandalism, undercover surveillance, physical abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, animal abuse, poaching, theft, possession of illegal or stolen goods etc.. You name it, I walked into it.
It was the impact that crime has on our community, especially our women, children and families that was the driving force behind the establishment of the UCSI. The vision that “technology feeding the right information to the right people can have a profound impact on keeping our community spaces safe” was at the forefront of what I wanted to achieve. I wasn’t really prepared for the “red tape” but managed to navigate those waters. Today we have a successful, community driven UCSI NPC working in our community space. My prayer is that the UCSI continues to make progress, grow and always strive to align itself with the intentions with which it was established; those of integrity, ownership and inclusivity.
I have to be part of the proactive solution in South Africa, and that starts at grassroots level, with our youth. I may not make a huge or profound impact, but if I can make a difference in just a few young people’s lives to go out there and be adults who are “game changers”, then I have done my job. Thank you uMngeni community for your support and investment in the UCSI – together we created something really good!
More about UCSI.