If people are walking alone in the Johannesburg central business district (CBD) or Braamfontein, they would do well to be extra careful, as street robberies are on the rise at this time of the year, according to the police and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
Gauteng SA Police Service (SAPS) provincial spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said many people fall victim to street robberies, especially students who live in Braamfontein, Auckland Park and the Joburg CBD.
“There are many cases of street robberies that get reported to the police, especially at this time of the year, when school children come to register or attend university. They become easy targets for robbers so, what we do, is we get information from our crime intelligence to deploy more police officers in these areas,” said Masondo.
He said most of the cases were reported in areas where there are institutions of higher learning like Braamfontein, where Wits University is located, and Auckland Park, targeting students from the University of Johannesburg.
“We advise them to walk in groups and not entertain strangers who come up to them to ask for directions, or things like that,” he said.
Masondo also said taxi ranks were a target area for criminals for people from out of town who come to Joburg to look for work.
“These people fall victim to these criminal activities because the criminals target them by pretending to be helping them while they rob them in the process,” said Masondo.
According to the ISS, street robbers pick the place and potential victims carefully.
There were an average of 220 street robberies a day between 2018 and 2019.
“Their selection is often based on the availability of vulnerable targets and quick escape routes.
“These spots are usually dark, overgrown or desolate walkways used by pedestrians to move to and from transit hubs, public services, schools or shopping centres.
“It is for this reason that a person is more likely to be a victim of a street robbery in a business node or densely populated area,” said ISS’s crime hub manager, Lizette Lancaster, and junior researcher Stuart Mbanyele.
The top five high-risk police precincts in SA for aggravated street robberies were central Johannesburg, Hillbrow, Khayelitsha and Nyanga in Cape Town and central Durban.
“Most robberies are committed by a relatively small number of repeat offenders. The police don’t distinguish this type of robbery from other categories of robbery, rendering street robbery largely invisible in the police statistics,” they said.
ISS said despite the seriousness of street robberies, most go unreported.