Kidnappings seem to be on the rise in South Africa, and being vigilant about your safety at all times is essential to avoid becoming a victim of kidnappers, children and young adults need to be taught this as well.
Wahl Bartmann, CEO of Fidelity Services Group, has confirmed that they have increased patrols at schools in their coverage area between drop-off and home time.
Bartmann urged parents to provide their children with knowledge and make them street smart, as well as the confidence to report any potentially unusual circumstance, whether in person or online.
He reiterates that the “clients“ in kidnapping cases are as diverse as the crime itself; they can be anyone from criminal organisations and political extremists to ransom kidnappers, ”express“ kidnappers and family members embroiled in a dispute of some sort.
He shares simple actions which can keep a child or young adult safe.
Teach your children
They must always walk to or from school with a friend or friends. Stick to streets they know never take shortcuts through quiet areas or empty parking lots and never walk with cellphones and iPads in full view.
If they get picked up at school, they should never leave the premises but always wait inside the schoolgrounds for their lift to arrive.
Younger children particularly must never get into a stranger’s car, even if the stranger claims that someone they love is hurt and that they have been sent to pick them up. Remind them that you would never send someone they don’t know to fetch them.
Consider using a password system. If the person coming to collect you from school cannot repeat the password you and your child agreed on, they should not get into the car but immediately ask for help.
If a stranger approaches your child, they should not talk to them no matter how friendly they may seem. If someone tries to grab them, they need to fight, kick and shout.
If your child does encounter any suspicious activity, encourage them to get a good look and memorise their physical details and clothing, as well as the vehicle they are in. Listen for any names or other details that might help identify them later.
Make sure your children memorise their full names, address and phone number. Using a play phone, teach them when and how to dial 10111. If they are older they should have emergency numbers programmed into their phone or consider having a safety App on their phone.
• Older children should keep their valuables out of sight at all times and not use headphones as this dampens their ability to sense their surroundings.
“The more you cut your senses off the easier it is for someone to take you by surprise. Stay alert!” says Bartmann
Alter their route: If they are walking home or to public transport they need to alter their route. Even if it takes longer, always use a route that is well-lit and populated with houses and other walkers instead of taking shortcuts through less-friendly areas. If you feel threatened, you can at least knock on someone’s door for help if you’re walking through a familiar neighbourhood.
If you are using a taxi service, ensure it is a bona fide service provider.
Be extra-cautious to go and meet anyone who befriends you on social media. Always meet in a public space with two or three friends as back-up.
Be cautious about being lured by people offering you a job or modelling contract. Remember safety in numbers.
Being open and honest is the only way to approach the dangers of social media with children, Bartmann says.
“We live in the digital age so it is difficult for parents to deny their children social media, as it’s tremendously useful for educational resources and to connect them with their peers. However, the platforms children use today can also make them easy targets for predators and kidnappers,” he says.