Crime on the increase outside Health Sciences Campus

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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Witsies victims of a “crime syndicate”

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 lucky.khumela@wits.ac.za