Concern for students’ safety

2018-03-26 10:17
The need for security around the Pietermaritzburg UKZN campuses has increased as around 16 students have been mugged or robbed while walking between campus and their residence and vice versa.

The need for security around the Pietermaritzburg UKZN campuses has increased as around 16 students have been mugged or robbed while walking between campus and their residence and vice versa. (Ian Carbutt)

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About 16 students have been mugged and robbed since the start of the year as they walk to and from campus at UKZN in Pietermaritzburg.

As a result, security guards have started escorting students home at night, but this has led to robbers ambushing students after the guards have returned.

Last Sunday evening, three men were arrested for robbing students walking near the campus. Mi7 security intelligence’s Colin David said the men were driving a White Opel Corsa bakkie with an “NRB” registration plate.

Two students had previously opened cases of robbery, describing the bakkie as the robbers’ vehicle.

“While doing our normal patrol duties, Mi7 armed response officers identified the Corsa bakkie and gave chase. The bakkie was intercepted and stopped just before the main campus entrance on King Edward [Avenue],” said David.

He said they found the men to be in possession of “a number of stolen goods belonging to students”.

“Our officers arrested the suspects ... the case was then handed to police.

Earlier this month, another student was robbed of his cellphone at gunpoint by four men. The student had been walking down Alan Paton Avenue when he was approached by four men.

One of the men allegedly took out a gun and pointed it at the student’s head, demanding he hand over his cellphone.

Police and Mi7 were able to make an arrest by tracing the student’s cellphone to a house in Dambuza.

The four men were arrested and an illegal firearm, live ammunition and allegedly counterfeit money were recovered from the house.

However, these are just a few examples of crime against UKZN students as David reported that around 16 robberies had been reported to them by students since January but said there could be more students who had been robbed and had not reported it to UKZN or Mi7.

Pietermaritzburg SRC member Ziyanda Mqikela said the SRC is concerned for the safety of students walking to and from campus.

She said they had asked UKZN’s Risk Management Services (RMS) to escort students between 8 pm and 4 am, which she said they had started doing.

She added that Mi7 also sometimes assisted with escorting students and patrolled the area around the campus regularly.

She said she had heard of five students that were robbed before RMS began escourting students. However, she said the robbers were now waiting for students to reach their place of residence and then rob them once RMS had left.

She said she was not sure of how many incidents had taken place, but estimated that eight students had been targets of this new tactic so far.

Mi7’s David said their team had identified several hotspots around the campus where students were targeted by robbers. He said the areas to avoid are: Golf Road; Ridge Road; St Patricks Road, and Alan Paton Avenue.

UKZN spokesperson Normah Zondo said management has noted “with concern the increase of criminal activity in the areas immediately outside the Pietermaritzburg campus”.

She said UKZN had contracted a private security company (Mi7) to patrol the area. “These crimes take place at night or when students are walking alone,” said Zondo.

“RMS has identified hot spot areas and they have alerted the South African Police Services to this concern.

“Additional safety measures include RMS providing an escort system between campuses and students are urged to use this facility.”

She urged students to be vigilant and to always be aware of their surroundings.

“Students should always try to walk in groups when venturing off-campus and valuables like cell phones and laptops should not be visible.”

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the police would be intensifying their visibility in the area to ward off potential criminals.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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