The instinctive reactions of a mother and several bystander may have saved the life of a young girl, after what appeared at first to be an attempted kidnapping at a Johannesburg restaurant.
Diners at an Italian restaurant at Goldman Crossing shopping centre were shocked on Thursday afternoon, when a man grabbed a four year-old girl by the neck in full view of patrons.
Roodepoort Rekord reported that the girl was with her mother at the restaurant when man attacked her.
Florida Police spokesperson, Sergeant Mpho More confirmed the incident, saying, “The unknown male grabbed the child by the neck as if he wanted to take her. The mother and the child screamed, and with the help of the shop owner and the community, the suspect was apprehended.”
One witness, who was dining at the popular eatery, recounted the drama.
“He was walking along the street banging on cars. Then he just started running up to the girl. It didn’t look like he was trying to take her, he was really trying to hurt her. His eyes were dead,” the witness claimed.
The suspect, aged 24, has no previous connection to the girl or her family, and has appeared in the Roodepoort Magistrates’ Court on Friday morning, 11 September.
After the above CCTV footage of the incident spread on social media, insurer 1st for Women issued a warning to parents to be vigilant and educate themselves on the dangers on kidnappings, while putting proactive measures in place to protect their children.
In a statement, Casey Rousseau from 1st for Women said “The last thing you want to do is instill a sense of fear in your child but a healthy awareness of the dangers of the world could end up saving their lives. When it comes to kidnapping, the more knowledge both the parent and child have, the better their chances of identifying kidnappers and preventing the unthinkable from happening.”
The company offered the following tips to help parents keep their children safe:
- Eyes open: Always keep an eye out for strangers loitering nearby. Avoid being distracted by your phone or other devices and duties / activities that you aren’t fully aware of your surroundings. Kidnappings happen in a matter of seconds. If you see anything untoward, report it to the authorities.
- Avoid danger areas: Avoid spots where you can become easily separated from your kids and where they can disappear in the masses. Teach your kids to always be in a well-protected and monitored area, where a responsible adult or authority is nearby. Also start right at your own doorstep and make sure that your home is thoroughly secured against would-be kidnappers.
- Who you gonna call? A two-way line of communication should be available between parents and kids at all times. Instruct your kids to call you immediately when something is amiss or when there’s a change in plans that they haven’t cleared with you, even if it comes from someone they know well. They should also know their own address, home phone number, your cellphone number and emergency contact numbers.
- ID check: Instill a healthy sense of skepticism in your kids. When someone claims to be an official or to know you, insist that they check with you to verify this.
- Keep your friends close: Kids should always be close to their parents, particularly in busy, public spaces. If your kids go out, they should always take a friend with them, especially to a place they haven’t been before. Ideally, a responsible adult should also be in the vicinity in case something goes awry.
- Make sure the school has done its homework: Your child’s school must have proactive measures in place against kidnapping and enforce these to ensure your child’s safety.
- Have a backup plan: Your kids should always know what they should do and where they should meet you if they are lost in a public area. This will help even if you don’t have cellphone reception.
- Move as fast as you can, make as much noise as possible: If someone follows your kids, tries to restrain them or force them into a car, they should run and scream as loudly as they can.
- Tracking apps and panic buttons: Use technology at your disposal to know where your kids are at all times and to allow them to alert you immediately if need be.