Public urged to be vigilant as festive season approaches

Police say Cape Town is in for a bumper season, and visitors should remain alert and aware.

As the Cape Town CBD prepares for the holiday season, which brings thousands of people into the city centre, security authorities at the last community police forum (CPF) meeting of the year urged people to remain vigilant, especially when it comes to ATM fraud and jewellery snatching.

The Cape Town CPF meets on the first Thursday of every month at the Cape Town Central police station in Buitekant Street. The last one for 2022 took place on Thursday November – the next one will be on February 2, 2023.

At the meeting, Central City Improvement District (CCID) security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, said they had noticed that chain-snatching was becoming a trend again.

Mr Hendricks said previously, they had identified a group of day strollers from Clark Estate on the Cape Flats coming into the city centre to carry out these crimes, however, of late, they were seeing new faces from all over.

He said they were targeting people in Orange Street, at the top of the Company’s Garden, Lower Long and Hand Strijdom streets, among other areas. “The group just walks around, looking for targets.”

He asked that security authorities look out for suspicious groups, especially in hot spots, and “challenge them, so that they know we are aware of them”.

He urged the public to also remain vigilant, and not to wear visible jewellery when walking in the city.

CPF chair Marc Truss reported that there seemed to be a new modus operandi for ATM scams. He said in the past two weeks, one couple was almost a victim of an ATM scam, while, in a separate incident, a couple was scammed out of thousands of euros after a well-dressed man approached them and asked them to pay for parking.

The incident happened at night.

Mr Truss said the “parking guard” approached the couple with a mobile card machine and when the couple obliged and received the payment receipt on his phone, around 20 000 euros left his account. “We need to start looking out for this,” he told the police.

Meanwhile, police reported that the priority crimes at Cape Town Central SAPS remain robberies and theft out of motor vehicle, and problematic areas remain the city centre, at the transport hubs, in Zonnebloem and around the club strips in Long, Loop, Buitengracht and Kloof streets.

Mr Truss said while there have been a few good arrests from the police, it was important to create awareness about these crimes and make sure people remain aware when walking in the streets.

He added that people were also being reckless by still leaving valuables in their cars, which makes them targets for theft out of motor vehicles. “You shouldn’t be absent- minded. People are watching you all the time, and we often find that people are complacent.”

Mr Truss also highlighted the issue of underage drinking in the streets of the city centre, now that the school year was coming to an end, and matriculants have completed their curriculum and were writing exams.

In previous years, Cape Town police had their hands full with schoolchildren coming into the city centre in numbers at the end of the school year and drinking alcohol in public spaces.

The head of visible policing at Cape Town Central SAPS, Colonel André Coetzee, said there were a few incidents involving schoolchildren, however, police were ready for them, and some of them were blocked before they came into the city. “We took control and we will still be on the lookout and deal with it as matters arise.”

During feedback of events in the city, ward councillor Ian McMahon said that for the next three months, the Cape Town International Convention Centre was fully booked, and that events have been returning to the city. “Cape Town is back in a big way.”

He said with all the events happening, there will be extreme pressure with regards to road closures and the amounts of people coming into the city, especially for the festive season events, which include the Summer Market in the Company’s Garden and at Greenmarket Square, a social event at Riebeeck Square, the Festive Lights Switch-On event, the V&A Waterfront New Year’s Eve celebration, and the Kaapse Klopse street festival taking place early next year.

He urged security authorities to be more visible during these events, and warned the public of a number of reported crimes and stabbings at past festive events. “Please be alert and aware.”

Mr Truss said the CPF annual general meeting will take place on Thursday November 24. While there will not be elections, it will be a feedback session.

Mr Hendricks also proposed an imbizo to be held on Wednesday November 30, however, details are yet to be confirmed.