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13 March 2012 at 13:32 - Posted by Anonymous

3 muggings a month on mountain


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Dog handler Paul Albertus with Baxter followed by Ntsikelelo Sofute and Esko on patrol. Photo: Neil Baynes

Despite 50 additional Table Mountain National Parks (TMNP) armed rangers deployed to guard against mountain attacks last year, criminals continued to rack up an average of three muggings per month, the Table Mountain Safety Action Group says.

TMSAG chairman Andre van Schalkwyk said 50 additonal rangers were deployed last year, bringing the total number to 96.

But, he said, things were looking more positive this year with a change in the areas where attacks occurred and the numbers of muggings dropping to about half the incidents for the same period last year.

During January and February 2011, six attacks took place between Rhodes Estate, King’s Blockhouse, Tafelberg Road, Karbonkelberg, Cecelia Forest and Signal Hill. This year numbers have dropped to three, one at Signal Hill and two at Noordhoek Beach.

“Mugging hotspots for last year were Lions Head/Signal Hill, along with Sandy Bay/Karbonkelberg and Rhodes Estate, where cyclists were being targeted mainly.

“Over 90 percent of all muggings occurred in these three areas. This year we see Noordhoek Beach make an appearance and we are keeping an eye on Peers Cave, near Fish Hoek, as well,” said Van Schalkwyk.

He added although car-park theft was not something the group focused on, it was a concern as people have complained to the group about cases at car parks at Silvermine South, Lion’s Head and the cableway station.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer November Filander said there had been an increase in robberies so far this year, compared to last year over the same period, in the TMNP area in the Cape Town policing precinct.

“During the past two years, police arrested two suspects in connection with the robberies. Areas of concern are Signal Hill Road, near Lions Head, a well known paragliding jump spot, Signal View and Pedestrian Hiking Road, Military Road and Table Mountain Road, near the quarry.”

Van Schalkwyk said his organisation had established a Table Mountain Watch website and a Twitter account @TablemntnWatch to help inform national park users of incidents.

“We have narrowed our focus to the distribution of information as soon as we can get hold of it.

“Muggings, violent attacks, suspicious persons and activities, hideouts, inhabited camps and bunkers – when we find out about them we report them to TMNP and we inform people.

“Our wish is to be able to relay information in real time to trigger additional ‘eyes and ears’ on the mountain while muggings are in progress, or very soon afterwards, as the suspects flee the area. We believe forewarned is forearmed and so we provide ongoing information about hotspots via various forums. All of this in an effort to prevent attacks.”

Greg Wagner, spokesman for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, said a number of initiatives had been taken over the past year to improve safety on Table Mountain. These include additional rangers and guard dogs for patrols and the Table Mountain Forum (TMF), established by the department.

In an earlier communication on the issue, Plato said: “Much work has been done to rapidly dispatching information to the relevant authorities in the event of an incident on the mountain and to boost swift action. The initiatives of various role-players are also contributing greatly to the implementation of short-term and long-term strategies to improve the safety of mountain users.”

Wagner said considering the vast area, extending over a quarter of the entire mountain range and spanning about 6 500 hectares, the minister’s office could not guarantee there would be no further incidents.

“The combined resources of those involved, when utilised correctly, will greatly bolster incident prevention strategies and response times.

“The approach of TMF is to ensure a united stand in that those enjoying a mountain activity… all make up additional ‘eyes and ears’ on the mountain chain to increase mountain safety,” said Wagner.

Merle Collins, spokeswoman at SANParks, Cape region, said rangers patrolled the mountain throughout the day with 10 dogs to keep visitors safe and clear out any places that criminals could use as hideaways.

Collins cautioned hikers not to carry non-essential valuables, such as cash, cameras or other gadgets, only cellphones for emergencies.

“If you are confronted by a criminal, don’t resist. Hand over your goods as resistance may incite a mugger to violence,” she said.

“Programme the TMNP emergency number into your cellphone – 0861 106 417 or Wilderness Search and Rescue 021 948 9900.”

Shaamil Majiet, owner manager of K9 Training Centre and Kennels in Epping, contracted to supply SANParks with dogs, said the firm had been involved with the national park since 2005.

“SANParks approached a client of mine, Group 9 Security, to supply them with dogs and handlers to assist the park with dog patrols.

“This was the first attempt at a dog unit, with private security dog handlers assisting the rangers on their patrols. These were our dogs leased by the security company and the handlers trained by me and my team.

 

He added that since 2006, SANParks had been sending their staff for training at K9 and leasing the dogs. The SANParks Ranger Unit has been patrolling since then.

 

“Dogs are carefully selected for suitability. The dogs are firstly trained over many months in obedience, agility, protection and to a lesser degree, scent-work.

“The dogs and handlers are then trained together in as practical a manner as possible, using many scenarios to prepare them physically and psychologically for the challenges facing them.

“One of the biggest challenges is the size of Table Mountain National Park, so the dogs have to cover as big an area as possible. ”

joseph.booysen@inl.co.za

 

Simple steps to help you stay safe on hikes

Here are some emergency tips and numbers that will help with mountain safety:

* Choose your route according to your ability, fitness and the experience of the party.

* Go with somebody who genuinely knows the way, or use a map, guidebook or description of the route from a person who has climbed it before. Allow plenty of time to get up and down in daylight.

* Stick to recognised routes on well-used paths. Heed signs warning of danger and do not take short cuts or negotiate unknown ravines.

* Tell someone exactly where you are going (up and down routes and expected time of return) and stick to this plan.

* Every party should have a leader. Keep together and travel at the pace of the slowest. Never split up and go in different directions.

* Always go prepared for bad weather and take proper weatherproof clothing. Carry everything in a rucksack to keep arms and hands free.

* Always watch the weather and time and turn back as soon as bad weather threatens, or if the route is no longer easy to follow.

* Stay put in the event of trouble. Don’t try to force your way down in darkness or mist. Find shelter, especially from the wind.

* If you get lost or find yourself in an area that looks unsafe, retrace your steps. Do not push on into the unknown. If you can’t find the path you left, look for a safe route.

* If you see or are involved in an attack, call 10111 immediately.

* Observe people who look “out of place” and who behave strangely – people loitering in the same place without apparent motive, walking off the beaten track or not suitably equipped.

* Do not approach suspicious-looking people. Turn around or keep your distance.

* For all TMNP related crimes and for suspicious activities call TMNP Security on 0861 106 417.

* Also have the following numbers ready for emergencies: Emergency SAPS 10111; Emergency Mountain Rescue 021 937 0300; Emergency Services – Cape Town 021 480 7700. 

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