Security tips for seniors

LAUREN O’CONNOR-MAY

Senior citizens are vulnerable to crime, Diep River Community Police Forum chairper- son Michael Kent said, at a meeting with police, security companies and the aged, at the Musgrave Park Retirement Village on Thursday April 28.

“We are picking up that there are incidents that involve our senior citizens in which they become victims,” Mr Kent said. “Crime nowadays doesn’t know any colour, any age; it’s just opportunistic. For a young man to attack and old person, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s happening.

“Seniors need to take more safety precautions.

There are people wandering around the area, they knock on doors to ask for food or money but really we don’t know these people.”

About 100 seniors attended the meeting where they were given safety tips by the speakers, among whom were Diep River police station commander, Colonel Mzwandile Gqabi, Colonel Martin Swanepoel and Warrant Officer Janine Jacobs from Diep River police, Geoff Fox the chairman of the Wynberg CPF Cluster and Colin Reeves from Combat Service security company.

The prevailing message throughout the meeting was, always keep your doors locked.

“The houses have burglar bars but still these people are getting through,” Colonel Gqabi said.

“These people who are getting through want valuables: cellphones, TVs, electronics, to sell them for drugs.”

Colonel Swanepoel added that police would like to host more meetings with the community.

The speakers had the following safety tips for seniors:

* Walk in groups

“Don’t walk anywhere alone,” Colonel Swanepoel said. “Crime at the moment is opportunistic. For pension pick ups, make sure someone can go with you.”

Mr Reeves advised that seniors organise trips to shopping centres in groups. “There’s safety in numbers,” he said.

* Don’t hide the crimes of friends of relatives. If your son or daughter is stealing to support a drug habit report it to police.

* “Don’t be afraid to call police, even if it’s just to say ‘I heard a noise in my yard’. We want to be informed. The only way that we will know is if you talk to us,” Colonel Swanepoel said.

* Report officers who do not take your reports seriously. “If you get one of those nasty officers and he says: ‘Hey, who are you? You just phoned, why are you phoning again?” Ask him what’s his name and report him. You demand that service. It’s your right. It’s your right to be safe in your area,” Colonel Swanepoel said.

* Beware of strangers at ATMs.

“If you are at an ATM and there are people offering you assistance, walk away. If you do need help, rather ask a person who works at the bank,” Warrant Officer Jacobs said.

* Ignore and delete suspicious messages asking for money.

Warrant Officer Jacobs warned people to be wary of suspicious-looking SMSes. She said a senior citizen showed her a message on her cellphone, claiming to be from police, asking that the person deposit money because there was a warrant of arrest out for her for an unpaid fine.

“Don’t respond to that SMS. Delete it. The police will not send you an SMS,” she said.

* Be vigilant.

Report suspicious people in the area.

* Call the security companies.

Colonel Swanepoel said that due to a lack of resources police cannot always respond immediately to call-outs. “I’m not ashamed to say that if police can’t respond, call the security companies. They are our partners.”

* Keep a list of important numbers on the fridge.

* Have a trusted contact. “Make sure of your environment. Make sure that there is someone you can trust that you can tell where you are going and when you are coming back,” Colonel Swanepoel said.

* Each sector has its own police van that can be contacted directly in case of emergency. Diep River’s van numbers are: 079 894 1552 or 082 522 2625.

The station’s numbers are 021 710 7300 or 021 710 7388.

The station commander’s direct line is 021 710 7301.