Gauteng police have moved swiftly to dismiss rumours of a new kidnapping syndicate in Johannesburg, following allegations of a spike in hijackings in the city.
Allegations emerged this week the syndicate operated mainly around Joburg’s inner city with people being taken while walking or waiting for a taxi.
A notice, which appeared to come from the Brixton Community Policing Forum (CPF) warned individuals were kidnapped at gunpoint and reasonably small amounts of ransom money, between R5000 and R10 000 were then demanded.
“This new trend has recently started in the Johannesburg area and we were informed at CPF level and asked to inform communities and especially youngsters as they are the ones most targeted and vulnerable,” a section of the post read.
It added: “Please be alert to this new trend taking place, no specific time is given as this seems to be happening all hours. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times.”
The Brixton CPF referred enquiries to the local police station.
But Brixton police station spokesperson Jeanette Backhoff denied there has been an increase of kidnappings in the area.
“There was a case last year when a man was kidnapped while driving but this was due to a family conflict and arrests have been made in this matter.”
Meanwhile, Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela also said he was not aware of a rise in kidnappings.
But a private security company owner, who mainly operates in Johannesburg’s inner city, told The Saturday Star he and his colleagues have noticed an increase in random kidnappings over the past few months.
“We are seeing more of these cases and we are also noticing that Ethiopians who run shops in the inner city are being targeted.”
The source, who wished to remain anonymous, said that this week, an Ethiopian man who collected cash from various businesses, was kidnapped by a group of armed men.
“He was taken from the inner city area but he managed to escape from the vehicle he was travelling in with the kidnappers in Mayfair,” the security company owner said.
He added the group fled the scene and the vehicle’s registration number was not recorded. The victim sustained injuries while he tried to escape and has been admitted to Helen Joseph Hospital.
Johannesburg security company Beagle Watch Security said it was not aware of any new kidnapping syndicates.
“This is possibly somebody trying to create panic,” said the company’s managing director Andre Aiton. “This has not been brought to our attention and we have not seen this in our footprint as yet.”
Security company Fidelity ADT said it also wasn’t aware of any new kidnapping syndicates in the Gauteng area.
“There have been no confirmed incidents within the Fidelity ADT footprint,” said Charnel Hattingh, head of marketing and communications for Fidelity ADT.
She did however say youngsters were vulnerable to kidnappings in South Africa.
“Children, teenagers, and varsity-going young adults are always vulnerable. As parents and guardians, it is our responsibility not only to educate our children about safety and security but also to give them the necessary tools to deal with a crisis.
“While we certainly don’t want to live in fear, we do need to have frank conversations about what to do when things go wrong. We urge parents to empower their children with all the information necessary to respond to any crisis or act of criminality.”
-The Saturday Star
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