Hoax calls a waste of resources

2018-09-20 06:00
PHOTO: suppliedVinod Singh.

PHOTO: suppliedVinod Singh.

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VALUABLE resources are being wasted when police and security officers respond to hoax complaints alerting security companies and SAPS about bombs planted in public buildings.

According to the authorities, the caller’s identity remains unknown as many calls come in as “private number”. However, some companies record the call in a effort to keep a record of the complaint.

Most of the calls are received from schools, supermarkets and other institutions.

Operations manager at Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) Vinod Singh said: “We have also found in the past that people who are appearing in court for sentencing or at the beginning of their trial will disrupt the court by calling in a bomb threat. Corporate sabotage could also be the reason behind certain instances. We also believe that the caller derives pleasure by creating panic,” Singh said.

He said valuable resources which could have been used at serious crime scenes are being wasted attending hoax calls.

“We dispatch at least 15 vehicles and paramedics to the scene to evacuate residents, businesses and shoppers safely while awaiting the South African Police and the bomb disposal unit.

“Resources used during the time of the call, which could last several hours, could be used more effectively. We have to treat every call as serious until confirmation is received from the bomb disposal unit that the premises has been confirmed to be safe, especially since we have attended calls where bombs were discovered,” Singh said.

In the past three months, Verulam officers said they have received three hoax calls.

In the first incident, a man called Rusa and claimed that there was a bomb at Shenaaz Centre on Todd Street in the Verulam CBD.

“The caller further stated that we had one hour to evacuate the building before the bomb would detonate. Reaction officers evacuated several residents from the flats as well as businesses situated on the lower level of the building. Neighbouring properties which consisted of flats and businesses also had to be evacuated,” Singh added.

In the second incident, another caller contacted a clothing store on Wick Street in the Verulam CBD claiming that there was a bomb in the store. Management of the store then contacted Rusa for assistance.

Singh said hundreds of shoppers were evacuated from the area. The road in a one block radius had to be closed off to the public and all businesses from Todd to Groom Street had to be shut down until specialised dogs were brought in and a complete sweep of the building was conducted.

Singh said: “Given the size of the building, the operation last several hours, resulting in businesses losing revenue during the sweep.

“In a third incident, another woman contacted the Rusa operations centre and reported a bomb at an old age home in Verulam.”

The premises had to be evacuated which resulted in elderly, sick people standing outside in the cold while police dogs searched for a bomb. A function was also being held at a hall situated on the premises and everyone had to be evacuated. The function was allowed to continue after the incident was confirmed to be a hoax.

“All calls are treated as high priority given the fact that explosive devices were found at Woolworths stores around the province. Explosive devices were also found at a mosque in Ottawa during the course of 2018,” Singh said.

Singh said the caller is never found on the scene of these incidents. In at least two of these hoax cases, the calls made directly to Rusa were recorded.

“The recordings were handed to the SAPS and the culprits are currently being tracked. Rusa is working closely with the police to track down hoax callers as it is a waste of valuable time and resources,” he said.

Singh advised residents not to make bomb threats because businesses suffer huge losses during the down time experienced during hoax calls and resources that could be used more effectively are being wasted during these hoaxes. “Anyone caught make hoax calls will be charged criminally and face the full might of the law,” Singh ended.

SAPS Verulam Captain Henry Kisten said a hoax call is a serious offence: “When we receive a call, our police officers have to respond to the call and investigate. Police have to get the bomb disposal unit to come and investigate. If a person who makes a hoax call is known, they can be charged because it is an offence,” Kisten said.

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