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Crime Print E-mail
12 January 2007


Avoiding Crime

JOHANNESBURG has made determined efforts in the past two years to crack down on crime, creating a local police force, the Metro Police, and installing some 200 "crime watch" video cameras in the inner city.

The results have been encouraging, and a report in mid-2002 from the respected independent "think tank", the Institute of Security Studies, notes that the risk of becoming a victim of violent crime in Johannesburg is now lower than in a traditonal "holiday" venue like the Western Cape. Newspapers report that improved border security arrangements with neighbouring countries have blocked the traffic in stolen cars to other African countries, reducing the rate of hijackings.

For example, the company which operates Johannesburg's crime watch cameras reports that in the week from 26 August to 4 September 2002, 272 "incidents" were recorded in the inner city, of which less than half related to crime, and only one to a serious crime (an armed robbery).

The company's MD, John Penberthy, notes: "Just over two years ago, (the inner city) was considered practically a no-go area. Violent crime was rampant with stabbings, shootings and armed robberies seemingly a daily occurrence. It is highly significant that the kind of events being recorded now involve petty and largely opportunistic criminal activities, such as you will find in any major city around the world.

The improved security gives tourists less reason for apprehension about visiting Johannesburg, but they should nonetheless take common-sense precautions. Follow the suggestions below, and you should, like tens of thousands of other visitors, enjoy a trouble-free stay:

    * Carry travellers cheques rather than large amounts of cash. Do not countersign the cheques until you actually need to use them. Carry only what you need; keep most of your travellers cheques in the hotel safe. Separate cash from credit cards.

    * Make a note of your credit card numbers, the customer service numbers for issuing banks, etc. Put the note in a sealed envelope and ask the hotel front desk to keep it for you.

    * Drivers should be on the alert when coming to a halt at traffic lights or stop streets, as well as when arriving at or leaving premises.

    * Car doors should be locked at all times. Avoid the temptation to keep windows wide open in sunny weather.

    * Plan your travel route beforehand, so that you don't get lost in a less-safe part of town. Where possible, rely on local residents for transport. If you get lost, look for a shop or other open business, and ask for help.

    * Do not leave valuables in clear view of people on the side of the road. Articles such as cell phones and handbags left on seats are favoured targets of smash'n'grab thieves.

    * While dining in public places, do not leave purses on chairs, under tables or on the backs of chairs.

    * When parking at night choose well-lit or security-patrolled parking areas. Throughout the city, you will see street security guards, who will usually ask whether they can watch over your car and in return should be paid a small fee - anything from two rand upwards.

    * Avoid wearing visible jewellery or carrying cameras and bags over your shoulder. Keep cell phones and wallets tucked away where no one can see them.

    * Make sure that the areas you intend visiting are safe by asking hotel staff or police for advice. Certain areas, such as parts of Hillbrow, Alexandra, the inner city and Soweto, are best visited in groups, ideally accompanied by local residents.

    * Use bank ATMs only in well-lit areas, for example shopping malls. Do not allow a stranger to assist you in your transactions. Should your card become stuck in the ATM, enter your PIN three times whereupon the machine will retain your card. You can then approach the bank to release it, or call the helpline number that can usually be found at ATMs for assistance.

    * Should you lose your passport, report the loss as soon as possible to your country's embassy or consulate, and to the local police.

For more information contact the Johannesburg Tourism Company on
tel: 011 214 0700 or fax: 011 214 0715 or e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  


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Last Updated on 21 January 2013