With the festive season approaching, anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee is urging parents to be extra vigilant in public places following a rise in attempted kidnappings.
Concerns over children’s safety in public places have increased recently following the rise in kidnappings and child abductions.
According to a statement released by the Strategic Organised Crime Risk Assessment report for South Africa, published in September, KwaZulu-Natal has the second highest number of kidnappings, with an average of 218 kidnappings a month for the first half of 2022.
This provincial pattern is reflected in the 20 police stations that reported the most kidnappings in the first six months of 2022; three are in KwaZulu-Natal (Inanda, Umlazi and Pinetown), one is in Mpumalanga (Delmas) and the rest are in Gauteng
Speaking to Weekend Witness, Abramjee warned parents to be extra vigilant with their children.
“There is no doubt that kidnappers and human traffickers are on the rise and they often use public places like shopping centres as a haven to try to commit their acts. “My advice to parents is to make sure that you take care of your little ones, make sure they are always in sight. Do not leave them unattended.”
Abramjee called on shopping malls and companies to make sure they have all the necessary precautions in place, including cameras and security officers, who need to act immediately and be pro-active.
“What often happens at a mall is that they will pretend that they know you, try to befriend you or try to start a conversation, and before you know it, they try to lure you [away]. Young people especially are being targeted so they need to be extra cautious,” said Abramjee.
Speaking to Weekend Witness, Sham Govender of Renegades search and rescue, said one of the causes of these kidnappings is the fact that children are often left unattended too.
“This negligence of adults has opened doors to predators who prey on the vulnerability of children. The child is taken under the radar and is often found deceased.”
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Don’t leave children with minors
Govender said young children between the ages of two and five years are often supervised by older children who are also minors.
He said these children are usually left unattended to play on the streets in the vicinity of their homes.
“The sad reality is that many children become victims because they are lured by strangers with the simple tactics of using sweets. Stranger danger and physical abuse awareness should become a way of life in schools and at home.”
This should be preached continually to minors. It is the duty of every adult to safeguard children. Parents, guardians, and communities should fulfil the duty of advising children on being vigilant.
He said the best interests of the child are of paramount importance. He added that children should have the freedom to live without fear and it is the adults’ duty to act responsibly in hope that premature deaths of children are stopped.
Huge under-reporting of kidnappings
Speaking on Newzroom Afrika, social justice activist Lorenzo Davids said there is a huge under-reporting when it comes to kidnappings.
“People are scared. When your loved ones are trapped in the hands of someone who demands money from you, you have to make difficult choices because they also demand that you do not tell the police.
“That is a huge risk because we are seeing a society that lacks the professional intelligence of a police service that should be on top of this,” said Davids. Lieutenant Colonel Nqobile Gwala also appealed to parents to make sure that they are vigilant at all times.
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“They must know the surroundings of their children. If they notice suspicious people and vehicles, they must report this to their nearest police station,” said Gwala