Durban – People who take advantage of victims of road accidents or crimes like hijackings after the incidents, by stealing from them could face harsh sentences if they are prosecuted in a court of law.
This is according to the head of the Justice and Violence Prevention Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, Gareth Newham.
Newham was speaking after two pensioners were robbed while they were trapped in the wreckage of their overturned vehicle following an accident in Verulam, north of Durban on Wednesday.
“It is a crime to steal from an accident scene and if arrested and prosecuted, the perpetrators could face harsher sentences than if they had shoplifted or stolen goods in another circumstance.
“Particularly, if the prosecutor argues in aggravation of sentencing that the perpetrators not only failed to assist those that might be injured at the scene, but stole from them instead,” warned Newham.
Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) spokesperson Prem Balram said that on Wednesday at approximately 2.14pm, Rusa received calls from motorists for assistance.
He said the two pensioners were targeted by thieves while trapped in an overturned vehicle on the northbound lane of the R102 between Canelands and Verulam.
“The 54-year-old woman informed reaction officers that pedestrians stole items from the vehicle while she and the 76-year-old driver were trapped in the wreckage. One person grabbed her bag, but she wrestled it from him. The thieves fled prior to the arrival of reaction officers,”said Balram.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated incident on Tuesday, it was reported that a 45-year-old truck driver was shot dead while travelling on the the R40 Road in Marite, outside Hazyview in Mpumalanga.
According to the report, police said some community members looted dairy products that were inside the truck, while the body of the murdered truck driver was still in the vehicle.
Emer-G-Med spokesperson, Kyle van Reenen, said this has been an ongoing issue for years in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We have definitely seen an increase in these incidents on the N2 in the vicinity of the Chesterville area,” he said.
ALS Paramedics spokesperson Garrith Jamieson, said paramedics have attended to multiple collisions of late, where victims that are involved in collisions are robbed and not assisted by members of the public.
“We see this quite commonly when we arrive on the scene and people express that as soon as the accident occurred, they were surrounded by people and robbed of their goods instead of being helped out of their vehicles or assisted with the injuries that they had sustained,” he said.
Jamieson agreed that this was a common problem.
“This is happening all over, whether it be trucks or light motor vehicles; if they are involved in a collision or any sort of a breakdown, they get preyed upon by thieves or people who come to try and see what they can steal from the victims,” he said.
He added that these incidents were sad as victims expected to be helped rather than robbed or attacked after their ordeal.
“I would like to urge all motorists to please be cautious of this and rather just be wary of who comes to assist you in your time of need,” said Jamieson.