“ SIGNIFICANT BREAKTHROUGHS THIS YEAR TO COMBAT KIDNAPPINGS ”
says Vision Tactical
After the SAPS crime stats were published, media reports indicated a drastic increase of kidnapping cases followed by analyst reviews displaying an alarming surge to over 1000 kidnappings a month in 2022.
The number of kidnappings in South Africa has been increasing sharply over the past year. In the first six months of 2022 an average of 1 143 kidnappings a month were reported to the police, doubling the monthly average in 2021 (700).
However, Vision Tactical Director, Yaseen Theba says that there have been significant breakthroughs this year, resulting in the arrests of syndicates and is confident that police are combating kidnapping for ransom cases.
“While every case is a case too many” Theba argues that kidnapping for ransom cases make up only 5% of reported cases.
“A high rate does not necessarily mean the kidnapping cases for ransom is increasing, we must drill down and distinguish between kidnappings for ransom and hijackings so that suspects can flee before police are alerted. With the expansion of digital banking, we are seeing more cases where victims are held hostage until suspects have transferred money electronically via e-Wallet or funds are transferred from an ATM. Victims are accosted by their attackers, sometimes disguised as Uber drivers or even police officers, and taken to isolated locations or driven around. Usually, the victim is released after a short time. While the affluent continue to be favoured targets, the popularity of payment apps has increased the pool of potential victims, with criminals prioritising volume over value. These are technically kidnapping cases, but we must distinguish the difference when a victim is held, and a ransom is demanded.
Most kidnappings are because of robberies and hijackings or domestic issues, and to simply analyse risk based on these cases creates panic that strains investigative resources.
The strategies and negotiations behind a kidnapping for ransom in comparison to a kidnapping linked to a domestic case or a hijacking would require a different response from SAPS hostage specialist. While these cases must be reported as kidnappings, we must look at categorising cases so that recourses can be prioritised, and we get a better understanding of the risks.
“We are engaging with the SAPS on how kidnapping cases are reported and an emphasis on how they review and quantify the number of kidnappings, so we are able to get a true picture of the risks when it comes to kidnapping for ransom.”
“According to the published crime statistics, Gauteng may be one of the provinces with an increase of kidnappings but based on the interventions by police and private partners we seeing people feel safer and more confident than in other parts of the country to report kidnapping cases’ says Theba. The introduction of the specialised Anti-kidnapping unit and recent arrests also boost higher public trust in police to report cases of kidnapping, especially with the foreign community.
The organised “high-profile” kidnapping of businesspeople, often foreign nationals, in most cases connected to a criminal links from Mozambique and syndicates from Pakistani or Bangladeshi elements have been identified in South Africa. Suspects were arrested this year and the collaborative efforts to combat these criminals are already showing positive results.
“Our challenge and biggest risk at this stage is the local copycat groups that are mimicking international syndicates demanding ransoms for very little in comparison”
In recent situations, partnerships between private security operators and law enforcement have yielded successful arrests and prosecutions as private security companies contribute vast access to technological devices and various resources available to combat kidnapping.
Theba says that the collaboration between the private sector and the police is a great value add for residents and clients, showing that we are able to draw upon the resources and expertise between the private sector and law enforcement.
“Collaboration is key and the fight against crime can only succeed by a multi-faceted approach.”
Theba reaffirms that if the partnership is done right, with private sector, respecting the authority of the law and law enforcement drawing on the resources and footprint of private security companies and the banking sector we can be much more effective to protect communities from criminals and potential kidnapping risks.
“The expertise and resources can only complement the boots and resources we all have on the ground. It saves time for the police and better protects our communities at the end of the day.”
We will continue to call on role players to find a mechanism within the law so that we can equip ourselves to collectively fight crime.
Our crime prevention objectives are the same and we must support entities towards a crime free South Africa.
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