The University of Cape Town is a public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency
The University of Cape Town is a public research university located in Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Universities hit by crime as research shows students are robbed, hijacked

By Sisonke Mlamla Time of article published Aug 28, 2019

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Cape Town - University campuses are generally perceived to be relatively secure places; however, results from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) research showed they were not immune to crime.

ISS researchers Eleanor Ross and Shahana Rasool said the most common crimes reported by students were those perpetrated by a “motivated offender”, and included laptop and cellphone theft, being abducted and having funds stolen from one’s bank account, being hijacked and injured, experiencing a robbery at a commune or student residence and having one’s belongings stolen after being threatened with a knife or gun.

“It’s concerning that students were not only exposed to crime off campus, but that crime also occurred in places where students assumed their property was safe, within the university environment,” the researchers said.

This comes after classes at Nelson Mandela University (NMU) campuses were suspended on Monday due to protest action by students who were up in arms over safety concerns.

NMU spokesperson Zandile Mbabela said the suspension did not affect the campus in George, but “the number of reported criminal incidents in and around the campus communities has the attention of Nelson Mandela University. The incident reports of muggings and/or robberies affecting our staff, students and the community is concerning and is being addressed”.

Stellenbosch University spokesperson Martin Viljoen said the safety of their students and staff remained a primary concern: “Millions have been spent on safety and security measures over the past few years, and these are reviewed continuously”.

Martin said bicycle and petty thefts headed the list of crime incidents reported to the university’s campus security. “The university experienced a downwards trend in criminal incidents over the last few years,” Martin said.

UWC spokesperson Gasant Abarder said they had noticed crimes occurring off-campus near the intersection of Robert Sobukwe and the Stellenbosch Arterial roads while travelling in the direction of the Cape Town International Airport. “These are primarily ‘smash and grabs’ and are beyond the ambit of university security.”

Abarder said when there was an incident on campus, a series of processes were immediately put into place by the university. “There are protocols involving many stakeholders to manage such incidents. If necessary, all medical procedures will be followed, and counselling and full support is and will be provided in all instances.”

Cape Peninsula University of Technology spokesperson Lauren Kansley also said the majority of criminal incidents reported to campus protection were theft-related.

“This would include petty theft out of residence rooms and is often linked to staff and student negligence like leaving windows or residence rooms unlocked,” she said.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said their crime reporting was now done annually. “Reports are tabled before council before being disseminated publicly. The crime report will be tabled before the next council meeting on October 12.”

He said they would be able to comment once the reports had been tabled before and adopted by the council.


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Cape Argus

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