Crime in the city centre dropped by about 73% during the national lockdown which is currently at Level 4.
This is based on an analysis by the City Central Improvement District (CCID), of statistics for the period from the start of lockdown on Friday March 27 to Friday May 15, and those for the same period last year.
With businesses due to reopen at Level 3 on Monday June 1, and at least a third of the workforce returning to the CBD, security authorities expect new challenges with the increased movement of people.
CCID security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, said only 94 criminal incidents were reported between March 26 and May 15 this year, compared to 340 during the same period last year.
The number of contact crimes has also dropped dramatically when compared with the same period last year.
In 2019 there were 23 robberies, 83 thefts out of motor vehicles and 38 cases of people fighting in public. From the start of lockdown until May 15, there were five robberies (a reduction of 78%), five cases of theft out of motor vehicles (a reduction of 92%) and 11 cases of people fighting in public (a reduction of 70%).
There were no incidents of ATM fraud, which is usually a major problem in the CBD, and no incidents of general theft.
Mr Hendricks said the CCID had changed its security deployment strategy during the lockdown to focus on protecting people, property and possessions.
He added that the CCID had been instrumental in enforcing lockdown regulations, including the fining of traders and small businesses for the illegal sale of cigarettes, and for individuals breaking curfew regulations. “Fines of over R20 000 have been issued for the illegal sale of cigarettes and people being out on the streets without a permit from 8pm to 5am.”
CCID chief executive officer, Tasso Evangelino, said as the country moves to Level 3, the CCID would alter the crime-prevention focus to include contact crimes such as common robbery and theft out of motor vehicles.
“We will also focus on providing a visible presence at street level to deter and reduce crime activity; antisocial behaviour such as drinking in public and aggressive begging; drug solicitation and usage in public.
“Our public security officers, who have been on duty 24/7 since the lockdown was enforced, will continue to wear PPE in public, and we will continue to observe social distancing practices.”
He said the CCID also anticipated a small increase in crime perpetrated by opportunistic criminals, but “we predict that this will soon stabilise once they realise that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated in the CBD”.
Mr Evangelinos said they had also reintroduced 36 Chrysalis Academy safety ambassadors, who would be deployed throughout the CBD, especially to areas where there was a lot of foot traffic, including Greenmarket Square, St George’s Mall, Long Street, the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) offices, Cape Town Central police station, and the departments of Labour and Home Affairs where there were often long queues.
“The safety ambassadors will be tasked with educating members of the public on Covid-19 safety measures, as well as being the eyes and ears of the CCID security teams as they are connected to the CCID 24-hour control centre via two-way radio.”
Cape Town Central police spokesperson, Captain Ezra October, confirmed that crime in the CBD had dropped significantly, adding that this had been due to a number of reasons, including the nightlife shutdown, and the implementation of a curfew, resulting in less movement at night and stores closing earlier than usual.
He said the police and other security stakeholders had been holding daily roadblocks.
The CCID had also increased its services to stakeholders during this phase of the lockdown to include routine checking of residential complexes; routine commercial building checks to ensure doors and windows are secured; rapid response to building alarm activations received via the CCID control centre or on the ground; a courtesy safety escort service to individuals who feel unsafe walking in the CBD; providing businesses (which are trading) with security when they open or lock up their premises.