Beware of criminals at cemeteries

By Drum Digital
07 February 2017

It doesn’t matter if you’re dead or alive – you are still a target for criminals.

South Africans are being warned to pay attention when they go to cemeteries to visit the graves of loved ones. And with Easter approaching when more family members will go perform traditional ceremonies, you can become an easy target for robberies.

Recently, eight people were robbed at the Odi Cemetery in Mabopane (Pretoria) and local police have asked residents to be vigilant and aware of their surroundings.

In Mabopane, victims have had their cars broken into and valuables such as handbags, cell phones and wheels stolen from their cars.

Criminals escape because they can disappear into nearby bushes.

Jenny Moodley, spokesperson at Johannesburg City Parks, says there is a growing concern that criminals are targeting cemeteries because that’s where people are most vulnerable.

“It’s not only people who visit cemeteries that are targets, but also those who live in the vicinity of a cemetery because they walk pass them, making them easy targets,” she says.”

Moodley tells DRUM that there are 37 cemeteries in Johannesburg, 27 of which are dormant, having reached their full capacity.

“In our active cemeteries there is visible policing and security but not so much in our dormant ones, so they become prone to criminal activity. Most cemeteries are guarded by a private security contingent largely to make sure that the assets of the cemetery such as buildings and offices are secure,” she says.

“Cemeteries are also patrolled by JMPD, SAPS and park rangers, but this work is based on the availability of resources. Avalon Cemetery in Soweto has 22 permanent staff members and ushers who are redirecting funerals. They are also our eyes and ears.”

Moodley says criminal activities mostly happen during the week because weekends are busy as that is when most burials are conducted.

“We are trying to find innovative ways to deal with crime at our cemeteries and have already begun a pilot project putting emergency buttons that are linked to sirens that alert the police if there is a crime,” she says.

Vishnu Naidoo, national spokesperson for SAPS, says South Africans need to be careful when attending funerals or walking around cemeteries in remote areas.

“We encourage people to exercise caution in remote areas and report any incidences to the police so there can be better visibility,” he adds.

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