THE WITS Health Sciences community has been hit by increased levels of crime just outside the Parktown campus since the end of last year, according to security guards.
David Mlambo, an external perimeter security guard from Protection Services, said that pedestrians with cellphones were being targeted as they walked along York Road, but recently, there had also been incidents of motor vehicle theft and robberies.
There is at least one incident of theft, or attempted theft, every week, according to Mlambo. He said, they had foiled an attempted theft of a Toyota Etios one day at the end of February but a Toyota Yaris had been stolen the very next day.
“You know, criminals are clever. I have noticed that these criminals move around checking or monitoring us, the security. It is very bad. We are all not safe,” he said.
Mlambo’s sentiments were echoed by Peter Selowa, an independent car guard, who said incidents of crime in the area had increased since the Hillbrow Police Station had cut the frequency of patrol cars.
“The police also need to play a big role. They must be visible. I think it might help,” said Mlambo.
Third-year medical student Revaan Singh was attending Awareness Day at the Medical School on March 6, when his Toyota Yaris was stolen from a parking bay on York Road.
“I walked out to go home. I was in disbelief as I approached the space where I had parked not to find my car there. At that point I knew that it had been stolen,” said the 25-year-old.
Toni Batty, a fourth-year BNurs student, said that she wished someone had warned her about the severity of crime in the area.
“Parking my car outside gives me anxiety, not only for the risk of car theft or smash-and-grabs, but also for my own safety, walking to and from my car before and after class,” Batty added.
Director of Family Medicine Dr Richard Cooke said that he was mugged in the area last year and that had made him more cautious.
“I am very vigilant now. I’m always a bit nervous walking up that hill. My main concern is not for individuals like myself, to be frank. I am concerned for smaller and, more predominantly, female students.”
Wits security staff have advised that people should avoid using cellphones in the street, that they walk in groups, and avoid leaving valuables in plain sight in parked cars.
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Organisers took to the streets of Braamfontein in silent protest for a safer community.
The marchers were wearing t-shirts and carrying placards with names, ages and crimes committed against survivors (more…)
Witsies have spoken of their “disbelief” as they witnessed criminals mugging motorists and attacking fellow students in and around Braamfontein.
A group of four men have been targeting cars waiting in traffic next to Noswall Hall residence on Jan Smuts avenue this past week.
A male student, who asked to remain anonymous, said he saw the men running into traffic on Tuesday afternoon and initially could not understand what they were doing. Soon after, he saw them approach a car with its windows down.
“They reached in and stole his valuables. I got scared and realised they were mugging people in their cars who were stuck in traffic. I thought I’d be next so I just ran away,” he said.
Student Funeka Sibande said she had a similar experience last week when she was standing with a friend outside Noswall Hall.
“They came out of nowhere and were running between cars mugging people inside the cars. Two went to the passenger doors and two to the driver’s door taking anything they could see. I was in disbelief,” she said.
When they came back one of the muggers said: “We are not here for you guys.”
According to Sibande the mugger said: “We are targeting privileged people and whites in good cars.”
Minutes later they mugged “a white man in a Jeep who had his windows down”, Sibande said.
“They came out of nowhere and were running between cars mugging people inside the cars. Two went to the passenger doors and two to the driver’s door taking anything they could see. I was in disbelief.”
“We got away after that, they were dangerous. People need to be careful. Don’t leave your windows down and please don’t leave valuables where they can be seen,” she said.
This is just one of several muggings and “smash and grabs” that have been taking place in various areas around Braamfontein over the last two weeks.
Wits security and liaison manager, Lucky Khumela, said he was not aware of the gang outside Noswall Hall but would warn Wits security to be on the lookout and “increase security” in the area. He said he would also alert police in the area.
“Don’t leave your valuables. Lock your laptops and bags in your boot and keep cellphones out of sight. There is a rise in sporadic crimes in the area and we will do everything we can to keep our students safe,” he said.
Last week a red Volkswagen Polo was targeting students on Smit, Jorissen and Simmonds streets.
The vehicle is believed to have been involved in at least five muggings around the Braamfontein and Wits area.
On Saturday a female student was mugged of her cellphone by one of the assailants who distracted her and then climbed into the waiting red Polo driven by an accomplice and the two of them drove off.
The student ran to a guard who alerted other members of security in the area. According to Khumela, one of the security guards then saw the Polo waiting at a red traffic light on Simmonds street.
“He grabbed a metal pole and hit the back window and the side of the car as a way of trying to stop them from getting away,” said Khumela.
The car managed to get away but has not been seen in the area since.
A total of 4 cars and 46 cellphones have been stolen from Wits University staff and students since the beginning of February.
Two cars have been stolen from Wits in the last two days alone and Campus Control say they believe “a crime syndicate” is operating on campus.
Wits Security and Liaisons manager Lucky Khumela told Wits Vuvuzela that the vehicles were stolen from West Campus parking lots around lunchtime on Tuesday afternoon.
In one incident, a car was stopped by Campus Control at the Yale Road exit on suspicion it was stolen. “The culprits drove through the closed boom and broke it to avoid security”, Khumela said.
He added that four cars, all Toyotas, have been stolen from Wits in the last three weeks from the university grounds.
“The culprits drove through the closed boom and broke it to avoid security,”
Cell phone theft
The number of stolen cellphones in the last two weeks rose to 46 as another 3 were stolen yesterday.
According to Khumela, 16 cellphones were stolen during the Freshers’ Party last Friday night along with 20 during Orientation Week. Khumela believes these incidents are the work of “petty thieves,” working together with a group of criminals.
“There have been incidences where students have been dancing at a party, the perpetrator pretends to dance with the victim and then hugs him or her and the phone is then stolen”.
Campus Control say they are working in conjunction with the South African Police Services (SAPS), to find the perpetrators and “bring justice to the campus”. Three people have so far been arrested in connection with the stolen phones.
Khumela has instructed Campus Control to do spot-check’s at the campus exit points on “vulnerable vehicles” to ensure they are not stolen.
“I ask staff and students to please cooperate with Campus Control when you asked to switch on and off your car. If a car has been stolen it cannot be switched off”.
Suspicious or criminal activity can be reported to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444 or email@example.com
STATS: A list of the increase and decrease of stats around the Wits area. Graphic: Campus Control
Crime – including mugging – is on the rise in and around Wits campus, according to the annual crime report released by Campus Control yesterday.
Despite the higher number of arrests made by the South African Police Services (SAPS) together with Campus Control, crime has increased from 279 incidents in 2013 to 310 in 2014. However, this number is still lower than 2012, when 348 incidents occurred. The stats include the area in and around the Wits campus area.
Although theft in general, and the theft of cars, has decreased, thefts outside of cars, pick-pocketing, muggings and the possession of drugs have increased around campus. Cell phone and laptop thefts have also risen.
Campus Control said the rise in cell phone and laptop thefts was as a result of “negligence” by students. Hot-spots across campus were found to be classrooms, parking areas and some residences. Most of the crimes in these areas were petty.
Campus Control’s security and liaison manager Lucky Khumela told Wits Vuvuzela: “Students have been leaving their valuables unattended in these areas and this gives opportunists a chance to take action and steal those valuables.”
Khumela said students must be vigilant, but that Campus Control was working together with the SAPS to arrest “perpetrators of crime”.
“We have been successful so far and we hope to continue. As you can see from the statistics, our arrests have risen from 36 to 42 in the last six months.”
Students have also been warned to be careful in a number of areas outside campus including Enoch Sontonga, De Korte, Jorissen, Ameshof and Melle Streets, as well as Jan Smuts Avenue and Empire Road, where muggings and smash-and-grabs have become more common, as reported by Wits Vuvuzela earlier this year.
Students leaving campus at night, whether walking to their vehicles or walking to residences around Wits or in Braamfontein, are encouraged to call Campus Control to escort them.
Crime can be reported to Campus Control on (011) 717-4444
Wits Vuvuzela: INFOGRAPHIC: Crime spike affects Wits University,May 12, 2014
Wits Vuvuzela: Smash and grabs rife on Empire Road, May 10, 2014
WANTED: Campus Control are searching for this man who is connected with crime on campus.
Two suspected thieves were arrested on campus this week – including a man thought to be the notorious library thief.
Known for stealing laptops and cell phones from students studying in the different Wits libraries over the past couple of years, the man was apprehended on Monday.
Campus Control’s security and liaison manager Lucky Khumela, said the thief was able to access Wits buildings because “he had stolen a student card from a ground floor bedroom in Sunnyside Res”.
Wits had a “clever system”, Khumela explained. After the card was reported stolen, “we decided to wait and see if the thief would use it”.
Every time the card was swiped, campus security received an alarm, which showed them the thief’s whereabouts, he said. The investigating officers “connected the dots” between the use of the stolen card and the thefts of phones and laptops in the libraries.
“Our investigating officer monitored his movements for some time and waited for the right time to apprehend him.”
In a separate incident, a Wits security guard stationed at University Corner was arrested on Tuesday after stealing a laptop from a student’s locker. The student had filed a report with Campus Control last week when the laptop went missing.
“The student thought he had lost his laptop and filed a report with us,” said Khumela.
The student had even approached the security guard who had stolen his laptop to ask if anyone “had turned it in”. The security guard had told the student he had heard nothing about it but would keep an eye out.
Khumela revealed an undercover investigation was launched straight away after CCTV footage exposed the security guard had stolen the laptop from the student’s locker.
“No-one here is above the law – not even our security guards. We are making sure Wits will not be a playground for crime.”
Khumela appealed to Witsies “to work hand-in-hand” with Campus Control to reduce the number of crime-related incidents on campus.
So it’s two down, but still one to go. Campus Control have asked students to be on the lookout for another suspect in criminal activity on campus.
Having spent most of my life in Cape Town, I was surprised by how quickly I fell in love with Jo’burg.
The vibe, the people and place itself are fun, friendly and exciting – the perfect place for an ambitious, wide-eyed 20-something to build a life. I moved here just over two years ago and, for about a week, was too paranoid even to leave my house – but only because my friends and family had told me about how “dangerous and hostile” Jo’burg could be.
I got over it very quickly, though, and for two years, was unaffected by crime. I had become too complacent too quickly to consider that it would ever happen to me.
They say bad things usually happen in threes and my first encounter with (Jo’burg) crime came almost two months ago. A guy smashed my car window and nearly took my phone. (I, stupidly, had been waving it about in broad daylight, in the middle of town.) I was freaked out, but learnt my lesson: Be more mindful of what is going on around me.
“They say bad things usually happen in threes.”
Last week, two days after one of my classmates was mugged on campus, I nearly got hijacked. This time, it was a lot more serious, but my beloved Yaris and I escaped (mostly) unscathed. Not even 48 hours later, I was mugged in Braamfontein.
Both times, a gun was unceremoniously shoved in my face.
My initial reaction was anger, and then a lasting wave of fear. The problem is that I live, study, work and socialise this side of town and suddenly, I found myself wanting to retreat back to the other side of the highway, where I’d be surrounded by harmless old Jewish ladies and 24-hour security everywhere I went.
But, if I allow this incredibly bad stroke of luck to start defining me and controlling my life, then I’ll be going against everything I stand for. It would be easier to give up and admit defeat. I could no longer feel safe leaving the confines of home, walking to my car at night or leaving varsity late after covering a story. But I can’t and I won’t.
This isn’t because I believe in the greater good, positive energy and all that, but rather because I understand (but don’t condone) why crime is so prevalent throughout South Africa.
I could never imagine myself settling anywhere else in the world. This is my home and I love it, even when really bad things happen.
Were it not for such a massive gap between the rich and the poor, if inequality had not come to epitomise life in this country, then those three men who managed to make me feel so small and helpless would not have been so desperate to act out.
If we had politicians who cared about us and a more effective justice system, then murder, rape and theft would not be so typical of life in South Africa.
So while I hope never to bear the brunt of crime again, my perception of this country hasn’t changed and I’ll continue to (try to) fight the good fight.
I have often heard members of our white minority complaining about crime, expressing the desire to leave a country that is “going backwards”. I have never felt that way.
I grew up in a diverse home where racism was non-existent. I grew up playing in soccer academies in areas where I often saw no other white people.
Never have I experienced a crime in my household nor have I been personally victimised. I lived my life in a free South Africa, unlike those who claimed that, if they lived abroad, their “children could ride their bikes outside and walk to school”. Growing up, I played in my neighbourhood park, in Orange Grove. I walked to school with my helper every day.
“I grew up in a diverse home where racism was non-existent.”
In my mother’s opinion, it was always about your attitude to crime.
If you wanted to be negative then bad things would happen to you.
However last week Wednesday, while covering a soccer game, I was mugged. I was approached by two men who took my phone and threatened me physically. I was distraught.
When they walked up to me, I had no foresight of what would happen next. I was not scared, I was just ready to get home and finish my work. I did not expect to be mugged.
Friends have since suggested that I take precautionary measures for the future: perhaps buy pepper spray or a knife to protect myself. I thought deeply about this and remembered my mother’s words. I decided not to buy either of these items because, if I do, I fear that I will constantly find reasons to use them.
I made the decision that those two men will not change my attitude towards the country I hold so dear to my heart.
I will not become a racist because of two people who committed a crime.
I will not live in fear in the streets I call my own because of two individuals. I still love my beautiful country, but I will learn to be more cautious, because not everyone is a good person.
I am lucky that I was not physically harmed, and I understand the situation could have been vastly different. But crime happens all over the world.
I still live with hope that one day, my children will have the same childhood that I had and will experience the freedom I experienced and the simple pleasure of being able to walk in their neighbourhood without fear in their hearts.
Waleed Teriq talking politics and mobile technology with customers at his new home and business, Celltronic Express. Photo: Percy Matshoba
From political violence to crime
SMALL Pakistani immigrant communities are finding refuge in Braamfontein’s inner city through the establishment of business chains to escape the politically hostile environment back home.
After one businessman nearly had his shop bombed, he ended up here.
‘’We do have businesses in Pakistan but the problem in our country is war and it’s too much,” said Pakistani immigrant and business owner Waleed Teriq, who reveals that his decision to move to South Africa was motivated by the political turmoil in his country.
The political unrest was brought by the ideological conflict of the Islamic faction known as the Taliban. It had taken control of Afghanistan in 1997 and imposed extreme Islamist law, which found neighbouring country Pakistan in the ongoing crossfire of the conflict.
Crime – the lesser devil
According to Teriq, members of the Taliban sent letters to his store in Pakistan which prohibited him from downloading videos and songs for his customers. They threatened to bomb his shop if he did not adhere to the instructions.
However, while Teriq moved from his country to South Africa to escape the consistent danger to his life, he still falls victim to the high incidences of crime in South Africa.
[pullquote]“We had a robbery, two times in 2010 and six people came with the guns and laid me down, taking 60 cellphones” said Teriq who reflects on the attack as his first experience of South African criminal activity.[/pullquote]
Similarly, a shop attendant from Bangladesh, Rohan Islam experienced a similar incident when his phone and R500 was stolen from him whilst getting off a taxi at the Bree street taxi rank.
“South Africa also have [sic] crime, not too bad, but there is a mix,” said Islam.
Communities at war
Islam reflects on his decision to move from Bangladesh to South Africa as an escape from the violent attacks he endured under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) regime. This saw him spend 21 days in hospital.
Teriq describes the relationship between the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the immigrant communities as “helpful”, although he mentions the need for the police force to be unduly incentivised is “too much”.
The political conflict in the migrant communities from different countries plays out in their business operations. This is because of the complicated relationship between the Pakistani and the Bangladeshi. “There is a community, but we are not friends,’’ said Islam.
“It is too difficult to live in our country right now,” says Teriq, talking about Pakistan, who describes Braamfontein as better than any other area in Johannesburg.