Churches and other religious entities in and around Pretoria need to be more cautious of their surroundings to avoid falling victim to robbers preying on them.
Pretoria Central SA Police Service (SAPS) station commander Brigadier Gibin Hlengane Mashaba made the appeal on Wednesday, following a spate of robberies, SAPS Pretoria Central spokesperson Constable Thabang Nkhumise said.
“This comes after the current incidents that have taken place within the province where some of the churches were robbed in broad daylight of their neck ties, equipment and other personal belongings,” Nkhumise said.
“It has sparked a whole lot of fear among the community. A video clip has also been doing rounds on social media platforms, where a congregation was robbed while the sermon was taking place,” he said.
“The (police) station calls on the community to work together with the police to ensure that such acts are minimised and to instil safety and security, especially on Sundays.”
The Pretoria Central police station has brought in other law enforcement agencies to assist in patrolling and policing the church premises in their policing precinct, and to heighten police visibility.
This week, the station conducted an awareness campaign in the city centre, tackling various issues relating to crime in the CBD.
“Churches should take note of the following safety precautions - when faced with a situation or any threat, remember to remain calm and adhere to instructions given by the culprits. In life threatening situations, do not take matters into your own hands to avoid danger or possibility of being injured,” said Nkhumise.
“While worshipping, avoid keeping valuable items such as bags, wallets, cellphones, cameras, car keys and other equipment in your possession, just in case. The church should come up with other ways of collecting tithes and offerings and avoid using money, or keeping money within premises.”
The police also appealed to places of worship to beef up their security and ensure that access is controlled.
“Minimise conducting sermons at night, especially heading into the festive season,” said Nkhumise.
“The station commander (Mashaba) says more interventions will take place to find ways to address such possible threats. He also urged all the places of worship to come on board and work with the police.”
As the December festive period approaches, police in Pretoria central have assured community members that SAPS vehicles manned by dedicated crime prevention teams including police reservists, community safety patrollers, and Community Policing Forum members and the newly-established Gauteng crime prevention wardens will be deployed to serve communities.
Earlier this year, as thousands of young people streamed into Tshwane to take up study opportunities at numerous institutions dotted across the metro, the police warned against prowling criminals and bogus institutions of learning.
At the time, Nkhumise said students and job-seekers were flocking into the city, and he urged them to be vigilant.
“The new academic year has kicked off and many will be flocking into the city with the hope of getting enrolled in various institutions, colleges and universities. A lot of students and job-seekers will be in the city to seek greater opportunities, and we urge them to be more vigilant of the criminal patterns that are currently taking place within the inner city,” he said.