Beware the 'very, very violent' Table Mountain crime
... but SANParks is working hard to make the area safer
Two “muggers” armed with a knife roughly tackled Wana Bacela to the ground and stole his cellphone on a hiking trail on Lion’s Head on Friday morning, before sprinting down the mountain towards Cape Town.
Six minutes later, half a dozen South African National Parks rangers arrived with a dog to chase the criminals, but they had vanished in the mist.
The simulated attack on Bacela, Table Mountain National Park northern area manager, mimicked eight prior armed robberies on Lion’s Head and Signal Hill and demonstrated how quickly criminals can escape by foot or car.SANParks held a safety briefing on Friday in response to the rise in attacks on the mountain – nine since 16 December – including one in which a hiker was stabbed to death above Kalk Bay.Eight of the attacks took place between January 1 and February 21, and three arrests have been made.Acting park manager Gavin Bell said: “We’ve always had crime on the mountain, like the robbery of cellphones and bikes, but the nature of the crimes has changed and become very, very violent.”
A map of crime hot spots from 2014 to 2018 showed 17 points in the unfenced national park including Kalk Bay mountains, Silvermine and Noordhoek beach.The only fenced section of the park, the Cape of Good Hope including Cape Point, has no crime, said Bell.
But anyone can walk into the rest of the park (except Boulders Beach) and crime from the city spills onto the mountain. The 4.5 million visitors a year are soft targets on the rugged terrain with limited cellphone signal.
SANParks has 128 rangers, 15 vehicles and 12 dogs and they are focused on high-intensity tourism nodes. The rangers do covert and visible patrols and cover moving observation posts.Bell said: “We are investigating appropriate technologies (including drones) and the establishment of a joint operations centre where we can see where our resources and the police are and can deploy them almost live. In emergencies we can be assisted by SAPS helicopters.”
SANParks head of communications Janine Raftopoulou said the organisation would try to “shift resources wherever we can” but had to cover 21 national parks, including Kruger.
She urged members of the community and recreational groups, such as hikers, to get involved in making the mountain safer.SANParks is working with neighbourhood watches, private security and volunteers as well as law enforcement agencies like the police, metro police and traffic cops, and the City of Cape Town.
Bell said: “The Table Mountain Action Group is a fantastic initiative. It has lots of members and can be our eyes and ears out there. Users can record suspicious persons and information will come through [to us] quicker.”
Poverty, criminal networks and dropped prosecutions have fuelled criminal incidents in the park, which spiked at 32 in 2010 during the World Cup and rose again to 21 last year from 18 in 2016.Bacela said SANParks officials were aware of homeless people living in caves, drug dealers who had been evicted by their communities and were hiding out on the edge of the park and religious groups with permits staying over weekends – and did sweeps to check on them.
SANParks hopes to create more smooth trails for people to walk, run and ride in the park and in this way funnel visitors to specific areas where they will be easier to protect.
Between December 16 last year and February 21, there were 53 rescues on the mountain and three medical emergencies.