Child kidnappings are on the increase in SA, but yet no recent stats are available
South Africans were rocked to their core when a man tried to kidnap a little girl in broad daylight from a pizza restaurant in Florida on the West Rand in Gauteng on Thursday 10 September. A video of the attempted kidnapping has since gone viral on social media.
In the video, the most bizarre sequent of events show how a man runs towards the restaurant – two women and a little child is sitting at a table on the patio – the man then jumps over the railings heading straight for the little girl. He grabs her around the head, but one of the women jumps across the table to hold on to the child. All of a sudden, a man who sat at the table behind the women and child, lurches forward and grabs the attempted kidnapper around the neck and wrestles him to the floor. The women have the child and they immediately move away from the situation. One of the women comes back (we’re assuming the mom of the child) and gives the attempted kidnapper a smack before security takes her away.
Why are children kidnapped?
In an interview on Breakfast with Martin Bester, Forensic Psychologist Professor Gerhard Labuschagne said statistics regarding kidnappings in South Africa aren’t a true reflection of what is actually happening. “The definition of child trafficking is very broad. People make the mistake of thinking that child trafficking only means that someone wants to take the child to a foreign country. Child trafficking is anytime when a child is taken from one place to another illegally – whether it’s to work in someone’s house or for sexual trafficking.” He says the most frequent reason why kids are kidnapped is because of custody battle
What do the stats say?
The South African Police Service last released stats for missing children in 2013. But according to Africa Check, these stats are not really accurate because firstly, they were released 7 years ago, and secondly, the numbers include missing kids who were found (some after 3 hours, others after a couple of days).
Who is most at risk?
National Co-ordinator of Missing Children South Africa, Bianca van Aswegen says children go missing for various reasons. “We deal with cases of children that run away from home, also for various reasons such as abuse, but teenagers are more likely to run away than younger children. We also deal with cases where children are kidnapped or taken for human trafficking purposes, family abductions, opportunistic kidnappings and human trafficking.”
While anyone is at risk of being kidnapped, Bianca says children between the ages of 0 – 5-years are the most vulnerable. “They are very young and don’t realise the dangers out there or the dangers people can potentially be to them.”
What can you do to keep your kids safe?
It’s scary to think that we have to keep our eyes glued to our kids all the time and take extra special precautions to keep them safe – especially when we’re out and about. But it takes 2 seconds for a child to disappear.
“Dress young children in bright coloured clothes when going to public places or shopping malls so that they’re easily seen and stand out in a crowd. Never let a young child out of your site. Children are inquisitive and tend to wonder off by themselves. It takes 2 seconds for that child to disappear,” Bianca says.
Missing Children South Africa urges parents to follow these safety tips to make South Africa a safer place for our children:
- Teach your children that even people they know can try to harm them, so they should tell you if another family member or family friend is doing something that makes them feel bad or uncomfortable. Teach them that no one is ever allowed to touch their body.
- Know where your child is at all times, who they are with and what they are wearing.
- Always keep a recent photo of your child with you so you have it available in case of an emergency.
- Teach your child his own name and address as well as your name and number.
- Teach your child not to walk away with anyone other than you or the person who is taking care of him.
- If you have a special needs child, get him a bracelet with emergency contact numbers on the bracelet.
- Teach your child never to get into a car with a stranger, for any reason.
- Let your child know that it’s okay to behave ‘badly’, to bite, kick, claw and scream when someone grabs them. Teach your child to say “I don’t know him/her. He/she wants to take me away!” This will often scare the person trying to take your child.
- Teach your child not to open the door for anyone.
- Let your child know that they don’t have to talk to strangers. They should stand at a safe distance from the person and if the conversation lasts for longer than 5 – 7 seconds, they should leave and find you. Show them what a safe distance looks like.
by Xanet Scheepers