Pretoria - You are stuck in peak-hour traffic. You are on your way to work. There are cars and pedestrians everywhere.
Someone tries to wash your window or sell you cigarettes.
Then all of a sudden there is someone with a knife next to your window.
Smash-and-grab incidents, armed robberies, muggings and pick-pocketing continue to cause many headaches - for police and victims alike, especially in the Pretoria city centre.
Smash-and-grab incidents are a problem in the city centre and the SAPS, Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) and City Improvement District (CID) have all warned pedestrians, road users and workers to act with extreme caution when walking or driving through crime hot spots.
The City Improvement District says the northern part of the CBD is the worst hit by crime.
Smash-and-grab incidents, pickpocketing, robberies and armed robberies, muggings and theft under false pretense - which include flyers promising penis enlargement - are rife in this part of the city, it says.
Sergeant Ann Poortman, police spokeswoman for the Pretoria Central police station, said “danger” times for robberies and smash-and-grab incidents are mornings, during peak hour traffic, and evenings from 6pm to 9pm.
“We have vehicles that monitor the areas regularly and we deploy additional crime prevention vehicles in addition to SAPS members who patrol the areas by foot,” Poortman said.
The SAPS in the city receive reports of about eight incidents from the hot spot areas a week, she said, but claimed it was difficult to establish realistic numbers and statistics.
“People do not always report the incidents so it is difficult for us to ascertain the exact number,” Poortman said.
Metro police spokesman Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said the number of incidents has decreased from last year.
In March alone, five arrests were made by the TMPD, he said.
“Some people do not report these crimes because they feel it will be a lost cause.
“If people do not report such crimes, it will be difficult to make comparisons and rate the seriousness of crimes committed in an area,” said Mahamba.
The metro police deploy members to the hot spots during peak hours, he said.
And last week the metro police conducted an operation to eradicate “penis enlargement” flyers.
“We are doing our utmost best to ensure the safety of our citizens,” he said.
Metro police officers’ shifts have been altered to ensure maximum presence during peak hours.
Mahamba said CCTV cameras on streets in the CBD help monitor the areas and help identify the perpetrators of crime.
Templeton Ngonyama of the CID, said its role is to monitor the CCTV cameras and deploy people on the ground to apprehend criminals.
Ngonyama singled out Nelson Mandela Drive, between Jeff Masemola Street (Jacob Maré) in Sunnyside and Johannes Ramokhoase Street (Proes) in the northern CBD, as especially dangerous because many armed robberies are carried out there.
“We have a serious problem there because robbers carry firearms,” he said.
Poortman confirmed a Nigerian national was shot dead this week after a shooting incident in the area.
Ngonyama said Nelson Mandela Drive falls under the jurisdiction of Sunnyside police station at one end and Pretoria Central police station on the other.
“We need concerted efforts from the SAPS to monitor this particular street,” he said.
Another serious problem Ngonyama identified was the role of car guards or lapswaaiers in vehicle robberies.
“While they help you park your car, they unlock one of the doors. As soon as the vehicle owner leaves and locks the vehicle, they open the unlocked door and steal the valuables,” he said.
The CID had arrested many car guards, he said.
Poortman warned vehicle owners to be careful about criminals with remote controls that interfere with vehicles’ central locking systems, especially in the area around the State Theatre.
“Double check that you have locked your car because criminals press their remote controls at the exact moment you lock your car.
“The signals from their remote controls interfere with the locking of the car and they can then simply open the doors,” she said.
Ngonyama said the broader issue of drug use, and especially the use of nyaope in the CBD, contributes largely to incidences of crime.
Brown Street in the northern part of the CBD, between Bloed and Struben streets, houses many nyaope dealers and users, he said.
“If we get the issue of drugs out of the way, crime will decrease because most of the crimes we attend to are drug-related,” he said.
Drug users often steal valuables and sell them for less than their worth to support their habits, he said.
He appealed to the criminal justice system to classify nyaope as illegal so that drug dealers and addicts could be arrested and charged.
Poortman encouraged victims of crime in the CBD to report to them to police stations or mobile SAPS vans.
Ngonyama said “crime victims let the system down” if they do not report incidents.
There are two mobile SAPS vans in the CBD, one on the corner of Thabo Sehume Street (Andries) and Bloed Street, and the other in Marabastad.
To report a crime, call the SAPS on 10111 or 08600 10 111 or the Tshwane Metro Police Department on 012 358 0917.
Tricksters are warned not to abuse the emergency numbers.
Captain Pinky Tsinyane, provincial police spokeswoman, said those who make prank calls to the police or abuse the emergency line are preventing people with real emergencies to report from getting through.
It is illegal to abuse the emergency line.
“All these calls are blocking the genuine calls from reaching 10111. People may also die while the complainant will be struggling to get through to report the crime,” she said.
* E’skia Mphalele Drive (DF Malan) between Boom Street and WF Nkomo Street (Church) - and all the intersections along the way.
* Paul Kruger Street between Boom Street and Johannes Ramakhoase Street (Proes) - and all the intersections along the way.
* Du Toit Street and Pretorius Street - especially vehicle robberies by use of remote control systems.
* Thabo Sehume Street (Andries) and Pretorius Street.
* Thabo Sehume Street (Andries) and Johannes Ramakhoase Street (Proes).
* Paul Kruger Street and Johannes Ramakhoase Street (Proes).
* Struben Street.
* Nelson Mandela Drive between Jeff Masemola Street (Jacob Maré) and Johannes Ramokhoase Street ( Proes).
* Eeufees Road - especially under the bridge at the Groenkloof Nature Reserve.
* Fountains Circle.
Safety tips for pedestrians in the CBD:
* Don’t carry your cellphone or handbag where it can be easily grabbed.
* Ignore people who promise you easy money.
* Don’t leave your belongings in a vehicle where they are clearly visible.
* Inform the police about the whereabouts of suspected criminals - and report incidents.
* Ignore people who say “you have been bewitched”.
* Ignore people who pretend to know about your personal matters.
* Beware of criminals posing as sales people offering goods at discounted prices.
* Beware of people who offer to assist you at the ATMs and do not allow anyone to see your ATM pin.
When driving through lawless areas:
* Always make sure your car doors are locked and windows closed.
* Never leave any valuables exposed inside your car.
* If possible, lock all valuables inside your car boot but make sure nobody is watching you.
* Beware of pamphlet distributors, “ice pop” sellers and window washers at intersections.
* Cellphones need not be exposed at all.
* Truck drivers must be sure to secure all supplies on the back of the truck.
* Be vigilant at all times and do not be distracted.
* When leaving your car, make sure it is locked. Thieves use remote controls to interfere with your car’s remote control so that your car does not lock.