A recent spike in criminal activities in Braamfontein is spreading onto Wits’ main campus, according to Rob Kemp, head of Campus Control.
There have been at least 8 muggings at gunpoint in Braamfontein in the past few weeks, and 6 where dangerous weapons were used, according to statistics from the South African Police Service (SAPS).
On Tuesday, a female student was approached by two well-dressed male suspects near the Planetarium, who threatened her, apparently with a firearm, and took her cellphone.
Last month, Wits Vuvuzela reported a robbery apparently at gunpoint, at the science stadium while in March, two students were robbed at gunpoint outside the Cullen Library.
Kemp, said his biggest concern is that students are not aware that they could be targets of crime.
He said he wanted the Wits community to be streetwise without panicking. Lost or stolen student cards are a common way through which criminals gain access onto campuses and residences. ICAM is able to put a 24-hour block on lost cards if they are reported, and students do not have to pay to unblock them when they are found.
Some suspects also stand around turnstiles, asking students to give them access. Kemp said some of them tell “nice stories” to convince students that they are entering campus for good.
“I left my card in res, I’m rushing for a lecture can you please help,” he said as an example.
Spot checks for student cards are being conducted at bus stops. Campus Control investigations manager Michael Mahada said this is not done to “oppress or harass students”.
There is a proposal to fence the area around the bus stops to restrict access to circuit buses. However, he said it could be “very restrictive, very controlling, and we’re [sic] not sure how it would go down with our population.”
Campus Control plans to fill vacancies within the next two weeks to increase the number of officers on patrol. It has also budgeted for more staff next year, and plans to commission an extra reaction vehicle.
Published in Wits Vuvuzela 20th edition, 17th August 2012.
Campus Control’s tips on staying safe
Avoid isolated areas on campus, including toilet facilities. A student was recently robbed on his way out of a bathroom in the John Moffatt building. Kemp also advised students not to use empty tutorial or lecture rooms to study, they should rather find one that is already occupied.
Do not leave your valuables unattended in public places for any reason, for any length of time. The stranger next to you in the library that you ask to look after your laptop does not have to.
Do not leave your residence room unlocked, even to go to the bathroom down the corridor.
Keep cellphones and other mobile devices out of sight when on the road.
Ask to be escorted to your room or car if you are leaving campus late, and feeling unsafe. Camus control is available to escort Wits staff and students to Wits residences and car parks, and can be contacted on (011) 717-4444. Students living in Braam are urged to ask Urban Genesys security guards (dressed in green and beige uniforms) for escorting.