As the Police Anti-Kidnapping Task Team continues to crack down on kidnappings for ransom syndicates, crime statistics released by the police ministry paint a grim picture of the scourge plaguing various communities across the country.
According to the stats, between October and December last year, 2 605 kidnapping cases were reported, which is 686 more compared to the previous reporting period.
The last four months of 2021 showed the highest number of reported kidnappings in five years.
Warren Myers, CEO of South Africa’s on-demand security and medical response platform Aura joined by anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee shared their concerns about this worrying trend and what South Africans can do about it.
Abramjee said the kidnapping syndicates are rife within many communities.
“Kidnappings for ransom are operated by large, specialised syndicates, who are demanding anything between R500 000 to R20 million in ransom. These gangs are starting to realise that a lot less effort is needed to orchestrate a kidnapping than other major crimes — all that is required is a telephone and a bit of homework done on the victim, and they can name their price.”
Abramjee said the criminals involved in kidnappings for ransom are opportunistic, targeting business and high-profile people from wealthy backgrounds.
“After choosing a victim, they put them under surveillance over a period of weeks or months, take them at gunpoint and keep them until they get the ransom money.”
Abramjee said kidnapping is also rife in lower-income communities but on a lesser scale.
“In these situations, gangs will pick up a victim and demand a small amount. The person pays what they can via e-wallet or something similar and the person or child gets dropped off again.”
Myers explains that it is important to note that while kidnapping for ransom is on the rise, the majority of kidnapping cases are hijacking and robbery related.
“Over 60 percent of kidnappings in Gauteng are a result of victims being hijacked and taken to ATMs to drain their credit cards. This is classified as kidnapping when it is reported.”
How to reduce your risk, be proactive and avoid becoming a kidnapping victim:
- An obvious precaution is to avoid becoming a target – don’t wear flashy jewellery or watches while out in public.
- Be fully aware of your surroundings at all times, particularly when approaching your home. Keep an eye out for unusual cars or people loitering around and report suspicious behaviour to the authorities.
- Avoid crime hotspots and areas where you can be easily separated from your children.
- Join a network or security company that you can rely on in times of trouble, programme emergency numbers into your phone or download a safety app with a panic button on your phone.
- Change up your routine. Vary the times you leave home and return and avoid using the same routes every day.
- Educate your children about crime. Instruct them to call you immediately if something is amiss or if there’s an unexpected change in plans, even if it comes from someone they know well. Tell them not to get into cars with strangers, and consider a password system, where the person collecting them needs to give a password, and if they can’t, your child immediately calls for help.