South Africans just can’t seem to catch a break. We are currently facing increasing crime, an economic slump after the pandemic, increased fuel prices and severe weather. The last thing South Africa needs is more bad news. The police ministry has released recent crime statistics that paint a grim picture. This is especially true when it concerns kidnappings.
Between October and December 2017, 2 605 kidnapping cases had been reported. This is 686 more than the previous reporting period. The number of kidnappings reported for the past four months in 2021 was the highest in five years.
Warren Myers, CEO of South Africa’s on-demand security and medical response platform AURA in the third webinar in a series, Yusuf Abramjee, an anti-crime activist, joined us to discuss this troubling situation and what citizens can do to address it.
“Kidnappings for ransom are operated by large, specialised syndicates, who are demanding anything between R500 000 to R20 million in ransom,” says Abramjee. These gangs are starting to realise that a lot less effort is needed to orchestrate a kidnapping than other major crimes — all that is required is a telephone and a bit of homework done on the victim, and they can name their price. “The perpetrators of these kinds of crimes are opportunistic, targeting business and high-profile people from wealthy backgrounds. After choosing a victim, they put them under surveillance over a period of weeks or months, take them at gunpoint and keep them until they get the ransom money.”
On the flip side, kidnapping is also rife in lower-income communities, but it’s done on a lesser scale, according to Abramjee. “In these situations, gangs will pick up a victim and demand a small amount. The person pays what they can via e-wallet or something similar and the person or child gets dropped off again.”
Important to remember is that kidnapping as a ransom is on a rise. However, the vast majority of kidnapping cases involved hijacking and robbery. “Over 60 percent of kidnappings in Gauteng are a result of victims being hijacked and taken to ATMs to drain their credit cards. This is classified as kidnapping when it is reported,” explains Myers.
How to lower your risk
Myers and Abramjee offer some tips on how to avoid being a kidnapping victim.
- An obvious precaution is to avoid becoming a target – don’t wear flashy jewellery or watches while out in public.
- You must be alert to your surroundings, especially when approaching your house. Report suspicious behavior to authorities if you see unusual cars or people loitering about.
- Avoid areas with high crime rates and places where it is easy to be separated from your children.
- You can join a security network that you can trust in times of trouble, program emergency numbers to your phone or download safety apps with a panic button.
- You can change your routine. Varietate the time you leave and return home, and don’t use the same route every day.
- Teach your children about crime. Instruct them to call you immediately if something is amiss or if there’s an unexpected change in plans, even if it comes from someone they know well. Tell them not to get into cars with strangers, and consider a password system, where the person collecting them needs to give a password, and if they can’t, your child immediately calls for help.
Technology’s advancements make it possible to reduce and even eliminate crime. An example of this is AURA’s emergency response platform, which gives users access to the closest vetted private security and medical response unit to their location at the touch of a button. This service is available via some of South Africa’s most trusted organisations. “Being part of a network that enables you to get help anywhere, anytime at the push of a button is crucial in this crime climate,” says Myers.