’Tis the season for tourist safety

In an effort to curb ATM fraud, the Central City Improvement District (CCID), in partnership with the national Department of Tourism, has roped in a team of 18 youths to work as ambassadors outside hotels in the city centre.

The ambassadors, dressed in orange T-shirts, were recruited to educate tourists about safety in the city while they enter or leave the hotels they are staying at.

The announcement was made at the last community police forum (CPF) meeting of the year, on Thursday December 5, at the Cape Town Central police station, where it was said that ATM fraud is still an issue of concern- not only in the city centre, but everywhere.

CCID security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, said the ambassadors were deployed outside hotels so that tourists get first-hand information at hotels, rather than at the ATMS.

Last year, the provincial government put together a specialised task team to deal with ATM fraud.

They then deployed Chrysalis Academy cadets to stand guard at ATMs around the city centre (“Guards curb ATM fraud”, CapeTowner, June 28, 2018).

He said one of the ongoing scams involved criminals convincing tourists that they needed a permit to walk in the streets. They work in groups, and while one distracts the tourist at the ATM, the other will assist the tourist and in the process, steal the PIN number and eventually, the card.

Police spokesperson Captain Ezra October added that tourists are also now being targeted at the Castle of Good Hope, where they are taken to the nearest ATM and robbed.

Mr Hendricks said: “There are over 200 ATMs in the city centre, and more popping up everywhere. While we can’t guard all ATMs, the key is education, so we are moving away from watching ATMs, and have partnered with national tourism.”

The new ambassadors are instructed to interact with tourists, hand out flyers with safety tips on them, and also help them with any other general information they should require. The team went on a month-long course with the The Tourism and Business Institute of Southern Africa, and were then incorporated into the CCID’s safety team and connected to their radio network.

Ambassadors Wandisile Katywa and Yibanathi Sitata, both from Khayelitsha, said they both had interests in tourism and applied for the position.

Mr Katywa had studied tourism and had used the job as part of his practical experience, while Ms Sitata would like to pursue a career in tourism. Mr Katywa said they work from 10am to 6pm every day, explaining safety to the tourists, handing out safety pamphlets and even providing locals with directions.

Ms Sitata said while it was great to talk to people from all over the world, the accents were often a challenge, but they try their best to make tourists understand. Other challenges they have is trying to make tourists aware of aggressive begging. “The vagrants often insult us and swear at us when we try to warn tourists about giving responsibly. It’s a good thing that we can call for assistance via the radios when we need back up,” said Mr Katywa.

Ms Sitata told the CapeTowner that an interesting experience they had was trying to assist a pregnant woman who had gone into labour.

“The woman lived on the streets and she said she was about to give birth. We called in some assistance and stayed with her until the CCID guards rushed her to hospital. It was a difficult one, but we learnt so much. We were later told that it was a baby boy.”

Thabisa Mboneli, from Philippi, had also studied travel and tourism before she applied for the ambassador job. She said one of the biggest challenges she faces is tourists not wanting to listen to the information and advice. “Sometimes they are in a hurry to check in, or when you approach them, they shy away, but we try to at least give them a pamphlet.

“I would like to explore the city more, and interact with tourists everywhere in the city. It would be great if we could also participate in some tours because sometimes they think we offer them.”

Cape Town Tourism expressed concern about visitors to the city falling prey to ATM fraud.

Cape Town Tourism said its Travelwise campaign included safety tips and advice around ATM fraud. These were available at capetown.travel and at Cape Town Tourism visitor information centres.

They said they worked with various partners on matters pertaining to traveller safety.

“These ambassadors are an initiative which we very much welcome, similar to the safety monitors deployed on Table Mountain thanks to our National Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane. They join our Cape Town Tourism TravelWise Ambassadors who are out at tourist hot spots across the city.

“We believe it is these kind of multiparty, collaborative, and complementary actions that will be key to maximising safety for both visitors and locals during tourist high-season.”

The CapeTowner sent enquiries to the national tourism department, but they did not respond by the time this edition went to print.

We sent enquiries to a few hotels, but they, too, did not respond.

Police reported that robbery was still rife, with most criminals using a knife as their weapon of choice. However, there were a few instances where guns were also confiscated during arrests.

The CPF chairperson, Marc Truss, said over the festive season, the city centre came alive with major events such as New Year’s Eve and the street parades which take place early next year.

He said people need to be more vigilant as they shop for gifts and carry extra money while they shop, or while they are at clubs and socialising.

Mr Hendricks said the CCID had also launched its “Stash it, Don’t Flash it” awareness campaign, which focuses on three common crimes in the central city: pickpocketing, theft out of vehicles and ATM fraud. The campaign comprises various elements, including posters and public activations, and provides tips on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of these crimes. The posters will go up on poles around the CBD during the festive season.

The sector managers – officers who manage the areas within the Cape Town Central police precinct, were awarded Pick * Pay vouchers worth R500 from the CPF. The CPF offers these awards to police officers who go above and beyond the call of duty, and a quarterly award to any member of the community who had done outstanding work.

The officers were also commended for their work at the Festive Lights Switch On event, which took place on Sunday December 1.

Mr Truss said crime remained relatively low due to the roadblocks at each entry point into the city, where they managed to curb the number of youth under the influence, confiscate dangerous weapons, and arrested a taxi driver transporting youth who was three times over the limit (“Cops confiscate litres of booze at lights event”, CapeTowner, December 5)

The next CPF meeting will be held on Thursday February 6 at The Akker Hall at Cape Town Central police station. The CPF and the police wished everyone a safe festive season.