Crime awareness tips by Enforce

2015-10-27 06:00

SOCIAL Media has become more than just a social network. For most users, it is now a daily source of news and information which, if controlled and verified, could be a great tool, particularly when it comes to fighting and preventing crime.

Unfortunately this is not always the case. While crime stories that emanate from credible news agencies are generally factual, crime stories that ‘go viral’ on social networks are mostly based on hypotheses.

Still, some of them can be beneficial to residents and motorist in that, even though they are false, they create awareness of possible risks – even if not probable.

Some of the most recent crime warnings include:

* Do not post children’s location and photographs on social media:

These warnings claim that child trafficking rings use Facebook to source victims. It states that they are able to find photos of children on Facebook – posted innocently by their parents, and, via the geolocation tag, know exactly where they can find them.

Yet Enforce is not aware of, nor has been able to source, any stories or confirmed cases of this happening in South Africa or other parts of the world.

* New hijacking modus operandi includes tying tins cans to the back of cars, removing licence plates, and throwing eggs at windscreens.

These warnings claim that hijackers passively force people to stop and get out of their vehicles by causing some kind of distraction. However, Enforce has found no cases of the above to have occurred in SA.

The “egging” of vehicles first emerged in 2009 on a YahooGroups mail list post. Although the warning was dismissed around the world as a hoax, there have been warnings from police about this happening in South Africa.

* Hijackers cable-tie electric gates closed

The claim is that hijackers cable-tie electric gates closed, and wait for residents to return home. When the gates obviously do not open, they get out of their cars to further investigate the problem. This is when the hijackers strike.

Although no confirmed cases of this have occurred recently, the warning dates back to at least 2008, when community safety organisations warned that this was in fact happening. New Germany and Westville were two areas specifically mentioned.

*House robbers/burglars mark homes to identify their vulnerability or whether they are a target

This claims that criminals mark homes with various objects, or by painting their gates, to mark them as targets. There seems to be some aspect of truth to property marking warnings, but does not appear to be to the extent that many people believe. Often spray paint on walls is the work of vandals, while random objects outside homes are simple cases of litter or rubbish being blown by the wind. But with all crime warnings it may be advisable to remove anything suspicious-looking just in case.

* Criminals look at “stick family” stickers on vehicles when choosing targets

These stickers are said to give criminals information as to how many people are in the motorists’ families, and how vulnerable they are as potential targets. Although no cases have been linked to the use of these stickers, numerous forms of law enforcement do warn against their use.

* Do not keep your home coordinates stored in your car GPS

It is speculated that hijackers are able to find their victim’s homes, with the intention of breaking in, by reviewing their GPS devices, in which often people save their “home” coordinates.

Enforce has not seen any confirmed cases of this, and it also seems unrealistic in that hijacking syndicates and those who break into or rob homes usually work independently and have their own sets of modus operandi.

Most of the recent crime warnings bear no, or very little truth to them, yet none of them are unrealistic, especially given the ever-evolving capabilities and intelligence of criminal syndicates.

For more detailed information and analysis on these crime warnings and myths, please see www.enforce.co.za. - Supplied

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