Crime - theft, Cape Town

26 Reviews

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  • Crime - theft
    by CatherineReichardt
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  • Purse Snatching

    by BrockMillman Written Aug 9, 2013

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    I was in Cape Town for a month. My wife is still there, and will be for another two months. It is a beautiful city, no doubt. The restaurants are lovely. Some of the neighbourhoods are amazing. The views, and the countryside is spectacular.

    On the other hand, the place is a thieves paradise, so travellers beware! Most South Africans are lovely, but there are enough, ugly enough that you might consider looking elsewhere if you don't have to go there specifically. There are lots of nice places on Earth.

    My wife has been robbed three times in the past month, twice in the last week. The first two times were purse snatchings. This last time a man grabbed her credit card as she was trying to make a cash withdrawal. These things happened in Camps Bay, which is suppose to be safe. It isn't. The major issue (2 of 3 incidents with my wife) are homeless people, in from the townships, who sleep on the beach at night, and spend the days either begging from or robbing tourists. There are no vagrancy laws. The police are worse than useless.

    As well, since my departure, a day hasn't gone by when my wife hasn't been sexually harassed in very explicit terms. This isn't entirely innocent. Remember: S. Africa is the rape capital of the world.

    Some advise then?

    Don't go out alone. Don't go at to Cape Town if you are a woman alone. Don't stay out after dark. If the locals aren't about, get in a cab and go back to the hotel. Don't carry anything with you that you don't mind losing. Don't carry a purse at all -- its a thief magnet: easy to take and full of goodies. If you are confronted by a robber, just fork over: remember, S. Africans are often armed, and the murder rate is 13X higher than in the US. Stay away from beggers. Be aware of where your belongings are at all times, and vigilant around anything involving money or cards out in the open. Don't believe the official stats that show crime going 'down'. I expect most crime isn't reported, and if it is, that it isn't actually recorded by a police force in a shocking state of decay. Remember you are in Africa. Listen to your spider senses. If they are telling you that the situation isn't right, it probably isn't. If it seems like you are being watched by malignant eyes, you probably are. Contact the police (and you should), but don't expect any action. They'll take a report, if pushed and with bad grace, but that is the end of it.

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  • South Africa/ Cape Town

    by gustav.oosthuysen Written Jan 15, 2013

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    Listen, I lived in CT all my life from the age 5 and generally it is safe to visit the Mother City, but do not be fooled about the very real problem of loosing your life. Locals will use any means to steal from you even stabbing with knives & the list goes on. Generally you will look like tourist and you will be prayed on. This needs not be a deterrent to come to Cape Town but you and your family need to be vigilant. never travel allone, stay in areas with lots of people. Still not a garentee but your ods is better. Johannesburg and Durban is the same story. Cape Town is hot spot.

    Ex Military.

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    Keeping safe in the Mother City

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Sep 4, 2012

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    (work in progress)
    Unfortunately South Africa's reputation is such that it's necessary to explicitly address the issue of whether it's safe for visitors.

    If you want an answer in a nutshell, security concerns are real but hugely overstated, and this is an area where media sensationalism has unfortunately coloured public perception in an irresponsible and unrealistic manner. There's no avoiding the fact that our society can be violent, but the vast majority of violence is perpetrated by South Africans on their families, neighbours and fellow countrymen, and tourists are seldom singled out to be the victims of violent crime. The biggest problem that tourists will encounter - in common with most big cities - is petty theft.

    So here are a few simple pointers that will hopefully help you keep safe and allow you to enjoy your holiday without risk to your person or your property.

    1. Don't create temptation. South Africa is a society characterised by a huge divide between the 'haves' and the 'have nots', and if tourists flaunt their wealth and take scant care of their possessions, it's little wonder if people who have very little will seize the opportunity to relieve them of these items. So, don't walk around with your wallet and/or passport hanging out of your back pocket, don't flash expensive jewellery or watches and don't leave valuables lying around in your hotel room.

    2. Stay on the beaten tourist track. Most areas of Cape Town are safe - particularly during the day - but there are areas where it simply isn't sensible to venture as a tourist unless you're with someone local, and wandering around after dark outside the major tourist areas isn't sensible in any big city. Similarly, venturing unaccompanied into a squatter camp or a shanty town is very rarely a good idea anywhere in the world - especially if you have expensive camera equipment hanging around your neck.

    3. Respect people's dignity and ask people's permission before photographing them. 'Township tourism' presents both the tourist and the community with benefits and downsides, so if this is something that you'd like to do, then please go as part of a tour coordinated by a responsible operator registered with the South African Tourism Authority (SATA). If you decide to go into one of the townships, please remember that these are place where people live (not a zoo) and act accordingly. I have a particular problem with tourists who visit deprived areas in search of 'photogenic poverty', which I think is both demeaning and exploitative.

    4. Don't give money to beggars. You may feel guilt ridden that people have so little when you have so much, but giving money exacerbates the problem rather than solving it and simply encourages beggars to be more demanding and aggressive. Many of the beggars you'll see are not genuine: for instance, there is rock solid evidence of rings that rent out drugged-up babies by the day to women who then pose as 'destitute mothers' at robots/traffic lights.

    5. Take sensible precautions when driving. Lock your doors once you're inside, don't leave your windows completely open when the car is stationary and don't leave valuables in full view as this simply makes you a target for a 'smash and grab'. Also try not to drive after dark, particularly in unlit areas: here, the risk is not so much one of violence, but rather that you may hit livestock, wildlife or pedestrians on the road.

    6. You are at your most vulnerable when you're lost, so plan your route before you set off and either hire a GPS or bring yours with you from home (with the relevant maps already uploaded) as South African road signage - particularly of street names - isn't the greatest. If you do get lost, don't pull over in a badly lit or secluded area and ask for assistance from complete strangers: rather drive to the nearest petrol station where it's well lit and there are other people around and seek assistance there.

    7. Don't have sex with locals, regardless of their colour, gender or sexual persuasion. There's no sugarcoating the fact that South Africa has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world, and this virus is not a souvenir that you want to take home with you. Even if you intend to use a condom, remember that your intended partner may not be equally enthusiastic at the prospect, and could cut up nasty if you try to insist. Which brings me to my next point: disappearing off to a secluded spot with a stranger also leaves you vulnerable to rape, theft and/or murder and is simply not a sensible thing to do.

    8. Travel with your mobile/cell phone so that you can raise the alarm or call for help should you need it. But of course this strategy only works if you know who to call for help in the first place! At a minimum, I would recommend that you programme in the number of your hotel(s), car rental company and maybe also your national embassy (bearing in mind that it is almost impossible to call an embassy and get past the automated number menus to talk to a real, live person). Many South Africans - myslef included - also programme in a number for ICE (to be used 'in case of emergency') which is usually a next of kin who can be contacted if you're involved in an accident and are rendered unconscious (or worse).

    9. Above all, be sensible and temper your actions with caution and forethought. If something wouldn't be a sensible thing to do in your home environment, then chances are that it's an even worse idea to do it in a strange town.

    As a general rule of thumb, if you exercise the same caution you'd use in one of the developed world's larger cities that you don't know well, then you'll be on the right track.

    Now we've got this negative stuff out of the way, you can get on with the serious business of enjoying your holiday!

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  • Tourism generally

    by Werbuts Updated Feb 17, 2012

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    If you are not prepared to be mugged or stabbed, don't go. I've been a number of times and I love it, there are many great things about it but the apologists saying "be careful" are deluded. Last week I was mugged at knife point with 2 colleagues at 10am on a main rd. These things are relative, but nothing like that happens in Australia or Europe with such frequency. It is not OK and has nothing to do with having your wits about you. It is a beautiful city with an underclass of desperate opportunists. Very dangerous and uncivilized. Beware, I'm reconsidering my next trip.

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  • Canal Wlak

    by cougar5mill Written Oct 10, 2011

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    there is "no" security in this place.
    several thousands of dollars of camera equipment were stolen from the boot/trunk of the auto parked "securely" while "security" watched it....

    Beware of the advertisement with the lady with the new soccer/football stadium on her head.

    Always leave your car empty of anyting. They will have it.

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  • Family Establishment in a Crime Area

    by Tobievr Written Sep 29, 2011

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    Please be extremely vigilant when visiting a family establishment by the name of Joostenberg on the R304 in the Western Cape. This is a beautiful family owned business with an area to eat and have fun, but it seems a crime syndicate that was acknowledge by the owner has been targeting them and other establishments in the area. No warning is given, no security guards were employed, no visible signs warning people of the danger. The problem that might occur is the fact that criminals evolve and no one could ever know exactly what they are prepared to do to get what does not belong to them. If you do decide to visit this lovely place, please be extra vigilant, and the question to ask would be, is the life of my kids worth it, should anything happen. No details will be given on the incident that happen due to emails that were sent from the attorneys. Life to our families should be more than just money, it should be quality of life.

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  • Cape Town Airport Customs "Scam"

    by Audris Updated Sep 8, 2011

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    You may be unaware of this, but if you are purchasing anything of value (antiques, diamonds, gold, coins, rare plants, gemstones, rare minerals etc.) in South Africa and are planning to not declare or to under-declare the value of your belongings when departing South Africa, it is in your best interest to not tell any local dealer or seller who you are, where you live and especially when your departure date and time is. Do not at any cost or time agree to be given a free friendly ride by any even the most decent looking gentleman, be him a shop owner or even a President of a company. You will be surprised how many shopkeepers and dealers will ask you when you are leaving and will kindly offer you a free friendly ride to the airport in their own car to farewell you to the far away land. If you do, you may regret that very much. Here's how the whole thing works:

    The local dealers, shop owners etc. have friends at the South African Customs with whom special secret "business" agreements are made to sell to them the confiscated goods by the airport Customs officers at a fraction of their value. Once a departee agrees to be given a ride by someone like a shopkeeper and both of you arrive at the airport you may be carefully suggested to not declare your belongings or even if no suggestion is made the shopkeeper may inform the Customs officer (usually their accomplice or a friend) about the incoming "gem" (you). If the particular Customs officer catches you under-declaring or not declaring your valuables, they will surely confiscate them and sell them at a fraction of their value to the waiting shopkeeper after you're gone back to your country. Not sure how exactly they execute all this cause this has never happened to me, but one of my friends told me he was offered free rides by so many shopkeepers that he knew that he became naturally suspicious and was told by one honest man to be careful with such rides.

    Instead of bringing you to the airport, these decent looking people that look just like one of your relatives could as well arrange the entire robbery thing, if not rob you themselves, you never know, so better be safe than sorry.

    One of possible scenarios would be the friendly ride giver could stop by at some petrol station or shop in a remote area in Cape Town and while they are shopping there and you are sitting in their car some "strangers" could be robbing you at a gun point.

    Therefore, to avoid this, always declare full value of your belongings that you take out of the country and be secretive who you are, where and when you go and when you depart. You may pay a small Customs fee or a taxi cab fee as opposed to getting everything confiscated. Instead, have someone who you really trust give you a ride to the airport, someone who does not know nor cares what your belongings are.

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    by mshampton Updated May 22, 2011

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    I am a single female in her 50s who has travelled to South Africa alone - Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg on two separate trips for over a month.

    Cape Town is a city where you have to be fully aware of your surroundings at all time but I was exposed to no crime. Definitely had to be indoors by sunset for safety reasons.

    The country is spectacular and well worth the visit. You see the rich and the poor within distance of one another. Poverty prevails but beauty of nature is immense.

    Like most major cities in the world, you have to be aware of dangerous areas and all major cities like Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg (especially).

    Enjoy your trip as you will be delighted as I was.

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  • Armed theft.

    by alanksport Updated Jan 5, 2011

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    We had been in Cape Town just three days when we were robbed at knifepoint at 4am in the morning in a private home in Newlands. Don't assume there is no crime in Newlands, it is everywhere, and probably assisted by domestics giving information to criminal associates. Police did not even bother to search surrounding properties, so we had no chance of getting passports back, let alone cash, cameras etc. Cape Town and South Africa?, never ever again, unhelpful sullen people, particularly at airports, but also in shops etc. A very dangerous place.

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  • Walking in the city at night

    by walshy51 Written Apr 6, 2010

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    Take a cab there are plenty of them but if you must walk in the city (Cape Town) at night, there are lots of security people at every corner, just about. This may be since the World Cup is just around the corner, anyway just stand next to one until you see another in the direction you are walking and walk to them. I've just spent a week in Cape Town w/ about 25 other crew members aboard a ship, most of whom are night crawlers and there were no reported incidents.
    On the other hand we've been to Barbados numerous times and have been mugged, beaten up and robbed on fairly regular basis. I was held up at gun point just outside of Bridgetown one night right inside a bar's bathroom. So no matter where you are, have your wits about you.

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    by gavin312 Written Apr 13, 2009

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    The centre of capetown has become a muggers paradise.I have lived in the centre of town for 4 years and there was never a problem but seems that things have changed dramatically.I have witnessed 2 x tourists being mugged in St Georges Mall in broad daylight. A guy had his cellphone removed from his hand near safmarine hse, he was out numbered and rather let it go than resist to these crooks. A month a go i was unfortunate to be in an attempted mugging,just of heerengracht str, i was more fortunate but thought that it was time people know you must not take your safety in capetown for granted

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    Crime may be overrated

    by iam1wthee Written Feb 16, 2008

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    Reading so many negative reports before going scared me, reading the forums here calmed me down a little bit. I feel to a certain extent that crime is overrated particulalry in Cape Town because there are a lot of cameras on the street and outside of hotels and apartments. I did not have one criminal incident or see one when I was there and I went to the so called dangerous neighborhood. I am not going to guarantee that nothing will happen to you if you go, but I think that the crime level may have been blown out of proportion by the media. I swear Africa needs a new public relations department. I did not really have to use my New York attitude much either. All I did was try to get to the hotel before the street lights came on. If I arrived at the hotel after that time I was normally with someone and they waited for me to walk through the gate of my hotel. I also dressed very simple in basic colors so as not to draw attention to myself. No one knew I was an American unless I opened my mouth. The other thing is I went after the holidays because I know people normally have the itch to steal to give gifts to their families. These are the only street smarts you could say I used. When you are in any city in the world including the so called "safe" ones you have to use some sort of precaution. Unfortunately, with the number of people that live in cities some are going to be criminals. Thats life..... but I really would not worry.

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    Don't let your guard down

    by AlekToronto Updated Apr 17, 2006

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    Obviously most people that visit will leave unscathed but I will not lie to you - there are a LOT of shady and questionable characters hanging around.
    As it is to be expected in a third world country with high unemployment and low education there is crime - just be smart. DO not walk by yourself at night, wear $$$ clothes or jewelry or act rich.
    I saw 1 mugging and 1 attempted mugging during the week I was there. Police and security are everywhere but stay aware of your surroundings.
    There are lots of pushy touts in the tourist areas, best to just ignore them.

    Cape Town tries to look and act European but it is Africa and remember that and you will be fine.

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    ATM Scams

    by Rachel Updated Feb 23, 2006

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    Be careful when using the ATMs. If anyone approaches you and offers to help you with the "hard to use" machines, refuse their help and do not let them touch your card. A common scam occurs where the individual pretends to help you, but really steals your card, watches as you type in your PIN, and then pretends that your card has become stuck in the machine. By the time you realize what has happened, the individual has already handed off your card to a partner-in-crime who is withdrawing cash from a nearby machine.

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    by Charlie_UK Written Feb 20, 2006

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    Beware the pickpockets! Zips are a speciality for them, especially around Cape Town railway station. You are best off taking a throw-away camera, so at least it's only some pictures you lose if you are robbed.

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