Park mugging raises safety concerns

A post on Parkscape states the mugging took place near the unfinished bridge.

A recent mugging ignited a storm of debate on social media about the use of weapons as protection, their legality and what types of defence is best.

A woman was attacked and robbed on the Keysers River greenbelt in Tokai Park on Wednesday April 25.

A post on the Parkscape Facebook page states the attack took place near the unfinished bridge.

The woman, who lives in Tokai and did not want to be named, said she regularly walks alone in the area. The incident took place at 8.50am when she was on the walkway parallel with the M3.

A man approached her, there was a scuffle and he took her cellphone and wrist watch. The woman could not confirm the identity of the man and did go to Kirstenhof police but did not open a case.

Parkscape administrator Nicky Schmidt advises park users to exercise due care, not to walk alone and to go there at peak times when there are other people around.

The following day a mountain bike (MTB) cyclist belonging to the Trail Angels posted a comment on the Constantia Society Facebook group indicating that the attack was not the only one.

However, Deon de Villiers of TokaiMTB said the post might have caused some confusion. “It was not a second incident involving a mountain biker, just the account from her on what they encountered that day – and did not call our emergency number,” said Mr De Villiers.

In other posts Tokai Today and Constantia Hills Community Watch reported that on Saturday April 28 “a woman who was walking alone in the lower Tokai Forest area near the cycle track was followed by two men, one with a Rasta hairstyle and the other wearing a yellow T-shirt. Luckily, as the two men moved closer, some people approached from the opposite direction and the men disappeared into the fynbos.”

This could not be confirmed.

Tokai Neighbourhood Crime Watch (TNCW) operations manager, Doreen Pears, said their patrollers do sometimes patrol Tokai Park. “And each Wednesday evening TNCW has a planned community walk which does cover part of lower Tokai forest area. We need more patrollers though,” she said.

One user says she always runs with pepper spray and another said she will not stop walking her dog there even though she witnessed a crime (before the murder of Franziska Blöchiger in March 2015) where two guys were pulling a knife on walkers.

“Saw them hiding behind trees and I made them aware I saw them. They left me and robbed a lady and her husband. She walked with her handbag and was an easy target,” she said.

The Bulletin could not confirm how many incidents have taken place in Tokai Park. Kirstenhof police, the community police forum and SANParks did not respond to email and phone enquiries. Parkscape received an advisory from the Tokai section ranger that SANParks will have rangers monitor the area.

They were currently focused on Constantiaberg. Previous statements by SANParks regional spokesperson, Merle Collins, are that weapons are illegal in natural protected areas.

Table Mountain Watch spokesperson, André van Schalkwyk, said he was increasingly hearing hikers wanting to protect themselves by carrying weapons.

Parkscape advises park users to avoid being in the lower Tokai Park area alone, and particularly at off-peak times.

The forest is busy between 6am and 10.30am and again from 4pm to 6.30pm.

Ms Schmidt said they have considered bringing in a private security company funded by Parkscape and the community but this can only be done with SANParks’ agreement and permission. Parkscape said security companies occasionally patrol the perimeter.

Ms Schmidt encouraged victims to report crime incidents to SAPS and neighbourhood watches otherwise it’s impossible to track the levels of crime.

Parkscape advises park users to:

* Tell someone where you’re going and your expected return time.

* Make sure you have airtime on your phone (although many parts of Table Mountain National Park have no cellphone reception).

* Always be vigilant and observant of your surroundings and those around you. If someone doesn’t look like a hiker, they’re probably not a hiker.

* Avoid isolated areas. Never hike, walk, run or cycle alone – go in groups of four or more. Use a tracking app such as mySOS or Hikers Network SafetyMountain Tracking

* Trust your instincts – if a situation feels bad, it probably is.

* Call out to others to ward off a would-be attacker.

* Carry a panic alarm – noise can deter would-be attackers and alert other users. Carry pepper spray, and know how to use it, especially in windy conditions. Don’t carry or display valuable items or large amounts of cash. Acquiesce/submit if confronted, do not retaliate – hand over your stuff.

* Ensure you have emergency numbers programmed into your phone, preceded by the letters AA so they’re at the top of your contacts list.

If you are interested in becoming a TNCW patroller, visit www.tncw.org.za or email membership@tncw.org.za