OR Tambo follow-home arrests: ‘Expect more heightened security’

2017-10-17 12:54 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - Just when it seems criminals have been winning a brazen crime wave against travellers, the South African Police Service (SAPS) says recent arrests made over the weekend are a "breakthrough' in what has been dubbed the "airport-following" robberies committed in and around the Johannesburg area. See News24's report here. 

Police spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo says SAPS has seen a significant decrease in crime reports in and around the airport", since the spotlight fell on travellers’ safety to Africa’s busiest International airport earlier in July.

The most recent in a spate of robberies involving robbers posing as police men and following travellers after they leave the airport involved a group of 36 Dutch tourists on Sunday 24 September. 

The tourists, who cut short their 22-day visit, were with their tour guide and bus driver when they were robbed shortly after arriving in the country while en route to their accommodation. They were stopped by a police car and a man who was dressed in police uniform. Five others were dressed in civilian clothing. See News24's full report here

SEE: Dutch tour group robbery: How do we make our tourists feel safe again?

According to Naidoo the reports in crimes have dropped significantly though. 

“In July levels were reaching unprecedented proportions,” he says.

 But Naidoo believes the new security strategy, which cannot be detailed in its entirety, has resulted in the significant drop in the number of crimes being reported in and around the airport.   

“Reports have reduced to one in a week,” says Naidoo who cites data integrity and verification of actual crimes not allowing him to detail the specifics of each arrest.

In July, Minister of Police, Fakile Mbalula announced measures for a “master security plan" at OR Tambo International to combat the growing crime wave at the airport.

SEE: WATCH: Road access to OR Tambo to be limited in new safety plan 

While no limited access to the Airport had been put in place as stated by Mbalula, Naidoo confirms stop-and-search operations are being sporadically done on the highways to the airport and will happen on a continuous basis he says, "This is but one part of the operations happening at the airport to combat crime”.

Other measures includes the process of vetting of 35 000 employees across companies at and contracted to the airport, as well as the implementation of a specialised task-team at OR Tambo.

UPDATE: OR Tambo Airport to get dedicated security task team

Naidoo says SAPS is working together with all entities to ensure that travellers are alert and informed.

"Educating them on how to not put themselves at risk remains vital. It’s simple things like not withdrawing large amounts of cash at the airport, not broadcasting your itinerary and keeping high-value goods out of sight," says Naidoo. 

SEE: In Transit: Staying safe in and around the airport

Similarly the matter is being carefully weighed by the National Department of Tourism and South African Tourism.

“The safety and security consideration not only starts when tourists land in South Africa, but in their decision-making about which destination to visit on holiday or hold a business event for their companies or clients,” says Sisa Ntshona, CEO of South African Tourism.

Ntshona will aim to find actionable solutions together with Naidoo, with a Tourism Update webinar to discuss measures that are in place to ensure the safety and security of tourists visiting SA - see details to register here

Launch of tourism Monitor project

On Tuesday, the Department of Tourism in partnership with Gauteng Tourism Authority also launched the Tourism Monitors Programme in Soweto. 

It says, the Gauteng Tourism Monitors programme "aims to enhance the visitor experience as well as improve the safety of tourists".

The programme is expected to create employment for 200 unemployed youth, aged 18 to 35 years who will be trained, mentored and placed as monitors at tourism destination for a 36-month period.

Minister of Toruism Tokozile Xasa who launched the initiative at the Vilakazi Precinct says, "Each participant will receive a stipend and uniform in line with the Expanded Public Works Programme."

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