National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole. File. Picture: Zukiswa Minyi/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria  - As the festive season draws nearer, with millions of South Africans heading to different destinations, National Police Commissioner General Khehla Sitole on Friday warned members of the public to be constantly alert and avoid falling victim to criminals.

"It is common knowledge that the Christmas holiday period is traditionally a time for relaxation and festivities, but unfortunately is also a period when complacency seems to set in and criminals become opportunistic," said Sitole.

"This is also a period when there is a greater tendency of abuse of alcohol and drugs, ultimately resulting in the abuse of women, children and other vulnerable groups, aggravated robberies, assaults and an increase in carnage on our roads."

Sitole said now that the festive season operations are in full swing, joint law enforcement agencies have been mobilised and resources have been prioritised, with a focus on high police visibility and planned operations across the country.

"The South African Police Service has, together with other security and government agencies, committed to ensuring a safer festive season to ensure that people are and feel safe," said Sitole.

"We are focusing primarily on aggravated robberies, crimes against women, children and people with disability, proliferation of arms and ammunition, border security, liquor outlets and road safety enforcement.

The police chief has shared the following safety tips: 

On general awareness:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and any suspicious looking persons/behavior;
  • Report any suspicious behaviour/activity around your surroundings to your nearest police station;
  • Don’t drink and walk on public roads.

When calling the SAPS HOTLINES 10111 (EMERGENCY) 08600 10111 (CRIME TIP-OFFS):

  • Prank or nuisance calls [to the police and emergency services] are generally at an increase during the holiday period. This places a huge burden on police resources which can be better utilised for legitimate cases.
  • Be clear and concise when providing details of your complaint to ensure prompt attendance
  • Make sure that you receive a police reference number for your complaint for future use
  • Do not use abusive language when calling the police emergency number

Regarding vehicles, Sitole said: 

  • Be in possession of a valid driver’s licence.
  • Buckle up and do not drive under the influence of alcohol or any dependency producing substances.
  • Always ensure compliance with road safety speed limits.
  • Do not leave children or pets unattended in a vehicle.
  • Be alert. Should you suspect that you are being followed, drive to the nearest police station.
  • Avoid driving alone, especially at night.
  • Jamming devices are frequently used by criminals, so ensure that your vehicle is locked by physically checking it before leaving when parking.
  • Always ensure that you inform family and friends of your whereabouts.
  • Keep all vehicle doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car. 
  • Always park in a well-lit area.
  • Never leave your vehicle unoccupied with the motor running or with children inside.
  • Do not leave valuables on the seat of your car. This creates temptation for thieves. Always put your valuable items in the boot of your vehicle.
  • When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings. 
  • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in your surroundings.
  • When driving long distance, ensure that you check your vehicle at your nearest car dealership before your trip.

Regarding the use of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) 

  • Always use an ATM that is in a well-lit area and not secluded. 
  • Preferably use an ATM inside a shopping mall/complex or filling station. 
  • Do not allow anyone to assist you while using an ATM. 
  • Protect your PIN and do not share it with anyone 

On shopping: 

  • Stay alert to your surroundings.
  • Shop during the day whenever possible. If you must shop at night, make sure you are accompanied by a friend or family member.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of money.
  • Be mindful and extra careful when carrying your handbag or wallet.
  • Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason.
Regarding children, the police chief said:
  • If possible, leave small children at home with a responsible adult. 
  • Teach children to stay close to you at all times while out at public places. 
  • Never allow children to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom at public places. 
  • Children should never be allowed to go to the car alone and they should never be left alone in the car. 
  • Teach children their full name, address and telephone number to give to police officers or any adult. 

When you are at home:  

  • Be extra cautious about locking doors and windows when you leave the house, even for a few minutes. 
  • Do not leave children unattended. 
  • When leaving home for an extended time, have a neighbour or family member watch your house. 
  • Do not open the gate for strangers. 
  • Be aware that criminals pose as municipal workers. 

"Remember to be extra cautious and vigilant and to share these safety tips with family and friends," said Sitole.

African News Agency/ANA