Cape Town - Hikes on Cape Town’s famous trails are on the increase but so is crime as robbers make hay while the sun shines with an increase in robberies on Table Mountain.
Tourists have been warned to take extra precautions when hiking or watching the sunset on Lion’s Head and Signal Hill after many muggings were reported to the authorities.
In the latest incident, tourists were robbed on the Camps Bay side of the mountain on Tuesday afternoon at about 3pm. Three rings, two cellphones and two watches were taken at knifepoint by two muggers.
According to Take Back Our Mountains’ Tahir Osman, the spike in muggings has been noticeable since March.
“Nick Frischke got killed in Hout Bay and his body was never found. Three ladies took a wrong turn and their friends stayed late on Signal Hill. They were robbed. Saudi Arabians were pick-pocketed – and it has been going on since March when we had 11 cases. It was quiet because there were arrests, but on August 12 incidents happened.
“Signal Hill and Lion’s Head are the hot spots. It’s really bad. Paragliders are spotting muggings as they happen.”
Osman told the Cape Argus that the law enforcement agencies were there but the criminals knew their schedules.
“SANParks should ensure safety for the visitors, they have security, SAPS and Law Enforcement officers. We understand the park is way understaffed, but we have been in talks with the new park manager. We need to find a solution to combat what is happening there.
“We patrol, and we take hikes, two and three as volunteers. We have someone who is living nearby, and he came up with a plan that we are still going to present to SANParks.”
He added that the major problem was that the City evicts the homeless and they move to the mountains.
Some culprits pretend to be e-hailing-service drivers and rob people.
“We also have opportunistic youngsters, and they commit crime in different ways, and there are different groups.
“It is alarming for the tourists and local residents who go to the mountain to spend time with their families. They are now robbing in the Camps Bay area; we have had two incidents. We noticed a group of females who go and have picnics and then end up pick-pocketing tourists on Signal Hill.
“We don’t blame the German travel advisory for telling their people not to come to Cape Town. A lot of them were robbed, and there is the Frischke case.”
Risk Intelligence Analyst André Colling Andre Colling said the Lion’s Head and Signal Hill crime surge has involved theft, theft from vehicles, and muggings.
“These have occurred at varying times with varying modus operandi. Often the perpetrator or perpetrators are armed and will threaten force by brandishing a weapon of some sorts. Most victims, unwilling to escalate, will surrender their items.”
He started mapping out crimes in 2018 and posted the data on Google.
“I am a mountain user and work in the travel risk industry, so the two combined to lead me to do this.”
According to police spokesperson FC van Wyk, Cape Town Central police are concerned about the prevalence and increase of muggings in the vicinity of Lion’s Head and Signal Hill.
“Operational plans have already been implemented to curb these crimes through an integrated approach involving Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) rangers, SAPS and various law enforcement agencies, and our neighbourhood structures that conduct daily crime prevention operations in the affected areas.
The police advised that tourists should not walk alone, and to ensure they are in groups of at least four people.
“Take your mobile phone with you, the emergency number punched in. Always let someone know which route you will take and how long you will be away. Be aware of your surroundings, and if you get lost, stay where you are.
“Maps are available at various leading bookstores. If a criminal confronts you, do not resist, hand over your goods and remain calm.”
Park Manager for TMNP, Megan Taplin, said that they have observed an increase in robbery incidents in certain areas, with Signal Hill and Lions Head experiencing a notable rise in reported cases in the past month.
“It is important to recognize that we are situated within a park that is in the heart of a City, and as urban crime rates rise, this can spill over into the park.
“Our response to safety and security issues in TMNP is to focus our own ranger patrols (day and night patrols) as well as special operations (planned on intelligence gathered) on the areas where crime occurs most often. We also focus on collaborating with law enforcement agencies and conducting joint operations,” Taplin said.
Taplin said that while working closely with the law enforcement and the police allows them to concentrate resources in hotspot areas, when authorities focus on one specific area there can be a displacement of crime to other regions.
“Many of these incidents are not just petty crimes but operations run by organized criminal syndicates, therefore demanding engagement at a higher level from all authorities.
“Our strategy involves a balance between concentrating on hotspots and ensuring comprehensive coverage of all areas within the park,” Taplin said.
“Park users should assist in the fight against crime by hiking or running in groups, avoiding using the park after or before sunset and reporting any problems or crimes by calling 086 110 6417.
“Incidents must be reported to the nearest SAPS office to enable authorities to investigate and prosecute offenders.”