One of the key elements of OurHood is the platforms Crime and Safety section. This section of OurHood immediately sends a notification and email when a user posts an alert or reports a crime which has taken place in the neighbourhood.
The OurHood team has seen there has been a sharp rise in the number of child abductions. However, South Africans must guard against rushing to social media and posting messages which are not based on factual information.
South African Police Services spokesperson, Colonel Priscilla Naidu, says: “…we must be cautious [about] how information is relayed on social media without verification.” But Naidu adds: “…we acknowledge your fear as parents”.
“Social media is an important communication platform and assists police in combating of crime and arresting criminals,” says Colonel Naidu.
“[But] distortion of facts can have dire consequences and cause unnecessary panic and mayhem in the community.”
OurHood thrives and enables building a safer and better-connected neighbourhood from information that is posted on the platform being relevant, useful and based on factual evidence. Sharing information about a crime and safety nature should be taken extremely seriously and thus ensuring the right information is posted makes a big difference in helping someone in urgent need.
While most of this year’s abductions have occurred in Cape Town, at least four children were taken against their will in Whittlesea in the Eastern Cape earlier this month. More were found in a truck en-route to Port Elizabeth.
“These two cases suggest that this is a serious issue in our province,” said Eastern Cape Premier, Phumulo Masualle.
“This issue of child trafficking is of serious concern in the province. It is a threat.
“We want to warn parents to be vigilant and not send their children to shopping malls and shops unattended,” said the Premier’s office.
“The same goes [for] when your children are waiting for scholar transport.”
The provincial government says the children found in the truck (aged between 14 and 21) have since been taken to places of safety.
According to Major Margaret Stafford, national coordinator for anti-human trafficking at the Salvation Army, there are a lot of undocumented cases of human trafficking in South Africa.
Eighty-two cases of trafficking were reported in the country during the 2016-17 financial year.
Many are children.
A parent’s natural instinct is to be protective of their child.
A concerned mother of two from KwaZulu-Natal – who chose to remain anonymous – recently posted on Facebook: “Unfortunately, due to all the scary things happening to kids these days, I will not be posting any more pics of my children on social media.”
“Who knows? Maybe we post them and nothing happens, or maybe we post them and some creep sees it and decides to hunt down our kids. You never know… I would rather be a paranoid mom for now and not post any pics of [my kids]…”
TIME FOR ACTION
Social Development Minister, Susan Shabangu, has called on delegates from the National Summit on Crime and Violence Prevention (which took place from the 13 – 14 September) to come up with a solution to curb the rising reports of trafficking and child abduction.
She adds that police must also come up with a comprehensive and integrated solution to this massive problem, and that this solution should ensure that communities, government and civil society all work together, as some cases of abuse, neglect and missing children are not even reported.
The Minister warns that sometimes communities are dealing with police officials who don’t properly record information.
OurHood would like to urge community members to work together and look out for one another:
- Make sure your children know your neighbours and point out the homes of friends in the neighbourhood where your kids can go in case of trouble.
- Teach them to say no someone makes them uncomfortable.
- Always tell you or another trusted adult if a stranger asks personal questions, exposes himself or herself, or otherwise makes them feel uneasy. Reassure kids that it’s OK to tell you even if the person made them promise not to or threatened them in some way.
- Runaway and scream if someone follows them or tries to force them into a car.
- Never accept sweets, chocolates or gifts from a stranger.
- Never go anywhere with a stranger, even if it sounds like fun. Predators can lure kids with questions like “Can you help me find my lost puppy?” or “Do you want to see some cute kittens in my car?” Remind your kids that adults they don’t know should never ask them to help or to do things for them.
- Always ask permission from a parent to leave the house, yard, or play area or to go into someone’s home.
- Make sure younger kids know their names, parents’ names, address, phone number including area code, and who to call in case of an emergency.
- Discuss what to do if they get lost in a public place or store — most places have emergency procedures for handling lost kids. Remind them that they should never go to the parking lot to look for you. Instruct kids to ask a cashier for help or stand near the registers or front of the building, away from the doors.
- If you’ve arranged for someone to pick up your kids from school or daycare, discuss the arrangements beforehand with your kids and with the school or childcare centre.
- Develop code words for caregivers other than mom or dad, and remind your kids never to tell anyone the code word. Teach them not to ride with anyone they don’t know or with anyone who doesn’t know the code word.
- Choose caregivers — babysitters, childcare providers, and nannies — carefully and check their references.
- If your kids are old enough to stay home alone, make sure they keep the door locked and never tell anyone who knocks or calls they are home alone.
- Monitor the types of pictures they upload of themselves.
- Make their profiles private. The Internet is a great tool, but it’s also a place for predators to stalk kids. Be aware of your kids’ Internet activities and chat room “friends,” and remind them never to give out personal information.
- Never leave kids alone in a car or stroller, even for a minute.
- Avoid dressing your kids in clothing with their names on it — children tend to trust adults who know their names.
South African National Human Trafficking Resource Line: 0800 222 777
Or anonymously report trafficking on their website: 0800222777.org.za
Follow this link to the contact numbers for the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit in each province: saps.gov.za
Childline: 08000 55 555
Crime Stop: 08600 10111
Parents, family members, neighbours, communities, policemen, teachers, doctors, security guards, politicians… Let’s work together to protect our children and fellow residents.
OurHood continues to interact with important neighbourhood civic associations to use the platform to better inform their residents. With this, we can build a safer and better-connected community.