Kidnapping or robbery? Confirm before you share and cause panic

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Police Service (SAPS) has issued a statement, saying it is greatly concerned with a recent spike in video clips on various social media platforms which in recent times have depicted unconfirmed cases of child kidnappings and abduction.

This week, a video posted on social media showed what seems to be a child being robbed of their smartphone in broad daylight off Modderfontein Road, Johannesburg. 

However, various social media users reported the incident as an attempted child abduction. 



According to Warren Lamont of the Intelligence Bureau SA Facebook page, information posted on their page is corroborated with local Community Policing Forums (CPFs) and he was confident that this was not an attempted abduction, but an attempted robbery. . 

Lamont said there seems to have been an increase in incidents where specifically children and domestic workers are targeted for drive-by robberies when they are using their phones in public. Smartphones, in particular, are often targeted by robbers. 

According to Lamont, "we had 3 to four incidents of this reported in Johannesburg on Tuesday alone. 

Marcel van der Watt from UNISA's Department of Police Practice and Nicole Bartels, with NGO, Stop Trafficking of People talk about child abductions.

"Children walking with smartphones in their hands automatically become targets."

According to Lamont, individuals can protect themselves by simply putting their phones away when walking in public areas, as they are then less likely to be a target of crime. 

However, videos seemingly depicting attempted child abductions have increasingly been shared on social media and the police said it is appealing to social media users to act responsibly and verify information before posting and sharing content that can cause unnecessary panic and paranoia among our communities.

Police spokesperson Vish Naidoo said: “To this day, there is no evidence that suggests firstly, that these incidents happened in South Africa and secondly, that these incidents are actually legitimate.

“Social media, when utilised responsibly, is an important communication platform that assists the police in combatting crime and arresting criminals. The South African Police Service assures the community that continuous awareness and educational talks on the safety of our children are done at various institutions including schools. While the recent social media postings remain unconfirmed, it is a reality that children do go missing. Therefore, parents and guardians are urged to exercise vigilance at all times.”

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According to Naidoo, an urgent appeal is being made to people in instances where they suspect a crime may have been committed or anything suspicious has occurred to contact the police first to verify such information.

In cases where children are involved, the Family Violence Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) may be contacted as well as the sector manager of a particular area.