UPDATE: OR Tambo 'follow-home' heist sees couple robbed of R50k

2017-07-10 07:55 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - A couple returning from a trip and landing at OR Tambo International Airport over the weekend have been robbed of luggage worth and estimated "R50 000 and some $7 000 in cash". 

The alleged 'follow-home' robbery took place in Centurion on Saturday night 8 July, after the couple left the Johannesburg airport, according to the Rekord Centurion

The report quotes police spokesperson Captain Dave Miller, who states the robbery occurred on the "corner of Rietvlei Dam Street and Delmas Road", after "five armed men in a silver Mercedes forced the couple to stop".

Miller says the couple was not injured, but their cellphones were also stolen during the robbery.

Attempts to track the robbers via the cellphones by security forces responding to the situation "lead to Hammnaskraal" but the signal was eventually lost.

An investigation into the incident continues.

SA's Minister of Police, Fikile Mbalula is expected to visit the OR Tambo International Airport on Monday, 10 July at 10:00am.

Mbalula will meet with the South African Police Service Management, Home Affairs, State Security and the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Police Departments at the airport regarding the safety and security challenges at the airport.

'Spotter syndicates' 

This latest weekend robbery comes as OR Tambo has warned travellers to be vigilant as alleged 'spotter' syndicates are being investigated across the various companies operating at the airport.

Acsa has confirmed it is working with authorities to curb the current crime wave around SA's busiest airport.

SEE: OR Tambo International crime is simply 'embarrassing'

OR Tambo International issued a statement previously after yet another cargo heist attempt took place at the airport on Saturday 1 July.

This followed a Carte Blanche investigation into alleged spotters working within the airport to identify travellers with high-value bags or good.

Aired on Sunday 25 June, the actuality programme interviewed an alleged spotter as he detailed how people working at the airport are helping criminals identify tourists, businessmen and even locals as they pass through OR Tambo International.

SEE: UPDATE: Swift action taken as robbers attempt cargo hit at OR Tambo International

On Friday 7 July, EFF leader Julius Malema weigh in on the concern, calling the airport a "playground for criminals" and the crime situation an "embarrassment".

Acsa has since met with the various stakeholders involved in the safety and security of the airport operations and has confirmed it is working through its Public Safety and Security staff to identify these alleged “airport spotters” believed to be alerting criminals behind follow-home robberies.

Acsa says it is supporting the South African Police Services Crime Prevention Plan in identifying the alleged spotters.

SEE: OR Tambo International crime is simply 'embarrassing'

'Decisive action to be taken'

Leigh Gunkel-Keuler, spokesperson for OR Tambo International Airport says, “We will not hesitate to take decisive action when we identify any person helping the criminals, irrespective of whether these spotters are employed by Airports Company South Africa or one of the many service providers operating at the airport.”

An estimated 35 000 people are employed air-port wide, across airline companies, ground handling companies, cargo operators, security companies, retail concessionaires, hotels, public transport operators and government agencies.  Further, only about 10% to 15% of people working at the airport are directly employed by Acsa.

“In addition, we continue to work closely with the SAPS on a variety of measures, including surveillance and intelligence work, to identify the spotters and the criminals.”

SEE: OR Tambo heightens security as multi-million rand robbery details emerge

Acsa is also working with the travel and tourism sector so that it remains engaged on the issue of crime - having met with the Tourism Business Council concerning the spike in this crime trend.

“As airport management, we met with key stakeholders in the travel and tourism sector. We too spoke of our mounting concern around issues of crime in a candid and transparent manner. SAPS officials were also present to provide an update on their crime prevention approach. Our commitment to being a part of the solution continues," says Gunkel-Keuler.

An airport is a complex facility within which many stakeholders operate and Gunkel-Keuler says that in this context, efforts in regard to safety and security need to be carefully synchronised.

“We will continue to work with all law enforcement agencies and the wider airport community to implement activities that will help identify the spotters alleged to be employed at the airport by various companies,” she says.

SEE: OR Tambo heightens security as multi-million rand robbery details emerge

Traveller24 previously spoke to Tourism Business Council's GM for Policy Analysis and Strategic Projects Tebogo Umanah, following a heist involving cargo to the estimated value of R24m, also believed to have been part of an alleged internal syndicate. 

Umanah's portfolio includes project management for the Tourism Business Index and the Tourism Safety Initiative, concerning illegal activities within the Tourism Sector and what business can do to report as well as tighten measures around the issue.

'Safe and secure portal'

According to Umanah, not many are aware of the TBCSA's Tourism Safety Initiative (TSI) which offers its members a "safe and secure portal" to report as well as to active investigations around any criminal networks and activities they suspect their employees or guests might be involved in.  

Umanah says the council works together with the police and individuals who are able to remain anonymous but still ensure the issue of criminal activity is swiftly addressed. 

IMPORTANT CONTACTS FOR MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC: (toll-free & anonymous)

The ACSA Hotline:  0800 00 8080

The ACSA Hotline Email: acsa@thehotline.co.za

ACSA Customer Care Services: Customercare@airports.co.za

TBCSA TSI portal: Click here to report a crime

Safety measures

SEE: Hijacking hotspots: Worst areas in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal

Follow these tips according to Wheels24 to avoid a hijacking:  

· Have your key ready but not visible. Unlock your car when you're close by.

· Don’t talk on your cellphone as you walk.  

· Check the back seat before getting into your car.

· A well-maintained car is less likely to break down and leave you vulnerable.

· Plan your route and let someone know what your route is and when to expect you at your destination.

· Always check the rear view mirror to see if you are being followed.

· Avoid driving with your windows open and keep the doors locked. Put all valuables out of sight. 

· Avoid distractions while driving such as using a cellphone.

· If you suspect you are being followed, drive to your nearest police station or a busy public area.

· When approaching a red traffic light, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green.

· Make sure your driveway is well lit and clear of shrubbery. 

· If possible, park in a central, well-lit place, preferably with guards on duty. 

· When stopping behind another vehicle, leave half a vehicle length in front so you can make an emergency escape if necessary.

· Change your routes and your schedule if possible on a regular basis. 

· Make arriving at your destination safer by calling ahead and asking someone to open and close your gate for you.

What to do if confronted according to Arrive Alive:

If confronted: Do not lose your temper, threaten or challenge the hijacker. 

·  DO EXACTLY AS TOLD BY THE HIJACKERS!

·  Do not resist, especially if the hijacker has a weapon. Surrender your vehicle and move away. Try to put as much distance between yourself and the hijacker(s) as speedily as possible.

·  Do not reach for your purse or valuables. Leave everything in the vehicle.

·  Try to remain calm at all times and do not show signs of aggression.

·  Be compliant to all demands set by the perpetrator.

·  Do not make eye contact with the hijacker. He may perceive this behaviour as a threat and retaliate aggressively.

·  Keep your hands still and visible to the hijacker, so as to give him assurance of your passive content.

·  Do not speak too fast (if you are able to talk) and do not make sudden movements.

·  Gather as much information as possible without posing a threat

·  How many people?

·  How many firearms and description thereof?

·  What were the perpetrators wearing (clothing)?

·  To which direction did they drive off?

·  Take note of the language they use (the accent).

·  First phone the SA Police Service on 08600 10111. They will dispatch the medical services if needed.

·  Other emergency numbers you could phone are 112 ANY Network (Vodacom+MTN+Cell C) or 147 Vodacom ONLY.

·  Activate the vehicle-tracking device, if the vehicle is fitted with one.


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