By Nienke Botha and Jacqueline Holloway
As the town starts to welcome back our students, we look at what they need to know to stay safe.
“Makhanda is a small city with a few traffic lights, but that doesn’t mean that crime is absent here,” says Captain Khaya Tonjeni, spokesperson for the South African Police Service.
Tonjeni’s most important safety tips for students are:
- Always walk in groups;
- Tell your friends where you are going;
- Keep your cellphone, handbag and drinks under your direct control at all times – don’t hang your handbag over the back of a chair in a club nor leave it on the table when you go to the toilet;
- When you go out, use the buddy system by ensuring that one member of your friend group remains sober at all times;
- Activate the “FindMyPhone” app on your phone so you can trace it if it gets stolen;
- Ensure you know and have recorded the serial numbers of your electronic goods for use by SAPS in tracing stolen property, should they be stolen. “The best way to do this is to take pictures and save them to the cloud or send them to yourself via email. Then you will always have access to those details;
- Invest in pepper spray (from Wallace Pharmacy or Hi-Tec) or a small whistle.
Students have some tips of their own to add, too. “Living in a complex, you have more peace of mind because there is gated access through a gatekeeper. There is also 24-hour Hi-Tec response if needed,” said one student who lives in town.
Have your student card on you at all times, says Tonjeni. “We can use it to get assistance from Rhodes if you are unable to tell us who you are.”
The University has a good system to support victims of crime, Tonjeni says.
“Make use of it if you ever experience crime of any kind. Being supported after a criminal event is as important as reporting it to SAPS.”
Lastly, Tonjeni says, please don’t abuse alcohol or use drugs.
“A person’s judgment becomes very poor when under the influence of either and such a person may become an easy victim of crime.
“Remember, if you remove the victim there can be no crime. So be alert and aware at all times. Note the people who are walking in the street around you. Take note of height and build and specific features.
“Clothing is good to note, but can be changed, so determining something specific when you look at people is a good way of providing us with a possible description. When a vehicle acts in a suspicious manner, or raises some concern in your mind, pay attention to the make and DO get the registration number.”
Tonjeni says locals and students alike are encouraged to report crime formally to the SAPS.
“Don’t report it on social media or simply circulate what you have experienced on WhatsApp,” Tonjeni said. “If we do not know where you have been and what happened to you, we cannot help the next person who may also experience crime in the same area. Never think that the SAPS is not interested or it is petty crime. Report it and get help. This is the only way we can keep our community safe – by knowing what has happened where, to whom and why.”
Grahamstown Police Station does not have a flying squad like bigger cities, We have a community service centre. Here are the numbers: 046 603 9152; 046 603 9146; 046 603 9492. During office hours, the centre switchboard number is 046 603 9111.