Getting into a dangerous situation can happen in the blink of an eye – even in a busy urban area where you think you’re “safe” because you’re surrounded by people. However, when it comes to personal safety, a little knowledge goes a long way, according to the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).
In an ideal world everyone would have an expectation of safety no matter where you are, or what time of day or night.
But according to CCID security manager, Muneeb Hendricks, modern reality unfortunately dictates that people have to be cautious and aware, to prevent themselves falling victim to opportunistic crime.
“There are hazards in any big city – especially after dark – and personal safety is an issue of importance for everyone, especially for women. But there are ways to ensure you stay safe,” says Hendricks.
But there are ways to ensure you stay safe
230 public safety officers deployed
The CCID has been key in turning the Cape Town CBD around during the last 15 years, making it the safest downtown in South Africa (according to a public perception survey published in the CCID’s The State of Cape Central City Report – 2014: A year in review).
This is largely due to the 230 public safety officers the CCID deploys to provide a visible security presence on the street 24/7 and who conduct, on average, close to 5 000 crime prevention initiatives each month – often together with the CCID’s partners at SAPS and the City of Cape Town’s own law enforcement unit.
Hendricks emphasises that victims of crime are never responsible for what happens to them, but his experience of giving lessons on personal safety has shown that there is much that women can do to avoid the trauma of landing up in a dangerous situation.
“It’s also imperative to always be aware of your surroundings,” adds Hendricks, “and to have key safety lessons become second nature rather than something that you have to try to think about when you’re in crisis.”
Hendricks says that, no matter how secure the environment, it’s always a good idea to bear the following safety tips in mind, to empower yourself to take control of your own wellbeing.
Out and about
- If you’re going out for the night, whether to a restaurant or a nightclub, make sure someone knows where you’re going, what time you’ll be back, and preferably travel in groups.
- When you approach a stop sign or a traffic light at night, keep enough distance between you and the car ahead to be able to change lanes safely if someone approaches your car in a threatening manner.
- If you think you’re being followed, immediately drive to a police station or busy place.
- Try to park in a well-lit area as close to your destination as possible. Once you’re out of your car, be aware of public lighting and plan your route to your destination accordingly. Avoid inadequately lit areas.
- When you leave your car, check that it is locked by trying the handle to avoid becoming a victim of remote-jamming. Ensure that there is nothing of value visible to tempt window smashers.
- If you’re leaving your car at home and cabbing it to your destination, make sure you travel with an accredited service provider, and always keep the numbers of at least two cab companies in your cellphone.
- On your way to the restaurant or club, keep your handbag close to your body. Don’t use your cellphone while walking, to talk or text, because it’s a distraction and a temptation.
- Never carry large sums of money and – it should go without saying – avoid counting your money in the open. Only use ATMs in well-lit areas and watch out for people standing close to you who may be looking over your shoulder as you enter your pin.
- Instead of giving change to a street person and thereby flashing your purse, find an NGO in your area that helps street people and donate to them instead.
- If you’re on the street and feel in any way intimidated, make your way immediately to a well-lit venue and ask for assistance.
- If you’re in the Cape Town CBD, call the CCID’s 24-hour Safety & Security number, 082 415 7127, for assistance.
Unfortunately, some establishments become hotspots for theft and other crimes. To make sure your night out isn’t ruined, follow this advice:
- Don’t put handbags under tables, on the backs of chairs or on restroom hooks.
- Never leave your handbag open and your purse visible.
- Try to carry some emergency cash on your person so that you’re not stranded if your handbag does go missing.
- And never leave your drink unattended.
But what if it happens?
- Stay calm and follow all instructions.
- Try to remember the characteristics of the attacker so you can accurately describe them when you report the crime to the SAPS.
- Make your way to a well-lit public venue immediately afterwards and ask for assistance.
- Contact the police immediately to report the crime.
Keep an eye out for your man
According to becitysmart.co.za, an initiative that helps to keep the public safe and that uses real CCTV footage to shed light on common crimes, it’s easy to become a victim of a scam on a busy street. One of these is the notorious shoe scam, which is commonly perpetrated on men.
It goes like this: you are approached in the street by a man who ostensibly compliments your shoes. As he points at them, distracting you, he picks your pocket and subtly passes your wallet or cellphone to an accomplice passing by.