Despite a significant general reduction in violent and contact crime in the suburbs, the incidence of crime in South African cities is still concerning.
The important thing is to do everything possible to avoid becoming a victim, by ensuring that your home is a safe haven, and that you take common sense precautions when you are out and about. Overseas visitors are not singled out as victims, and violent crime is much more prevalent in poorer communities.
Living in gated communities does reduce the risks of becoming a victim of burglers and house robbers, as does observing basic security procedures (see below).
Although substantially down from its peak a few years ago, car hi-jacking is still something a threat, and “smash and grabs”are not uncommon in Johannesburg, occurring when stopped at a red traffic light or intersection. Smash and grab attacks are opportunistic, and seldom violent, but are alarming and can cause a great deal of inconvenience, as handbags/purses and laptops are typically targeted.
Visitors will find the police bureaucratic, but generally helpful, when reporting an incident. The number of serious crimes means that the police do not regard lesser incidents such as smash and grabs as a priority, and few if any of such cases are solved. Your only contact with a police officer may well be after experiencing a theft or loss, in order to obtain a case number for your insurance claim.
With the exception of Gautrain (very well policed), avoid public transport – it is not for the uninitiated
Be alert and exercise a conscious awareness of your environment, prudence and common sense.
Do not walk around the streets at night.
Do not carry large sums of cash – only sufficient for your immediate needs. Use credit cards whenever possible.
Avoid ostentatious displays of jewellery cameras and other valuables, and carry your handbag firmly under your arm with the strap over your shoulder.
Like all large cities in the world, there are areas that are no-go places for visitors after dark. We do not recommend you venture into certain areas of Johannesburg without a local guide, especially at night. These areas include: the London Road exit off the N3/Alexandra; the Soweto Highway and Grasmere Plaza exits off the N1; Central Johannesburg and its adjoining suburbs of Hillbrow, Yeoville etc., and any of the traditionally black townships or squatter camps.
Should a thief confront you, especially if he/she has a weapon, do not resist.
Keep your passport and personal identification in a safe place, and always carry certified copies.
Do not flash large wads of cash when making payments when people can see your money.
Be aware of pickpockets operating in densely crowded places such as sports stadia
Only use ATM’s (Automatic Teller Machines) in safe areas such as shopping malls and filling stations.
When driving, do not leave anything of value (handbags, laptops, cell phones) on the seats or dashboard. It is advisable to place items of value, including shopping, in the boot/trunk of the car or tuck them under the seats where they are not visible.
Nearly all attacks on cars can be avoided by using common sense and basic safety rules:
Rule #1 - and most important - is to be aware of your surroundings and remain alert. This is in any event advisable from a road safety perspective, as the behavior of Joburg’s traffic can be unpredictable.
Choose a vehicle that has central locking and air conditioning, and always drive with your windows up and doors locked.
Know your route and try to avoid dark, isolated roads. At night keep to well-lit main roads and highways.
Always make sure you have at least a quarter of tank of fuel.
Be wary of people who approach you for information or offer you something. It is not advisable to purchase goods from them, or to give money to beggars at intersections. They may be “casing” your car for sight of a laptop or handbag, which information is then passed to an accomplice lurking nearby.
Be aware of stationary vehicles outside your gates, particularly if they are occupied. When coming home, if you seeanything unusual, drive around the block and if it is still bothering you, drive to the nearest police station.
If you are by chance taken unawares, don’t resist or make any sudden movements. Comply with the hijacker’s demands, get out of your vehicle and leave him the keys.
Don’t stop for accidents. Contact emergency services and inform them of the incident and location.
In order to claim for any losses or damages from your insurance company, you must report an incident to the police at your nearest Police Station, and obtain a case number from the Duty Officer.
Never offer rides to hitchhikers or strangers.
Purchase a cell phone and hands-free car kit, and code in emergency contact numbers.
Always have your key ready when returning to your car in a car park, and be alert and aware of bystanders.
When dropping people back at their vehicle, ensure that are safely on their way before departing. Similarly when dropping people home, ensure they are inside before leaving.
Try to avoid regular routines, and if possible vary your timings and route to and from the office/school
A list of Emergency Numbers should be easily accessible to the family. Numbers should include those of doctors, poison crisis centre, police, fire and ambulance services, water and electricity departments and your security company’s control room. Elliott Corporate Relocations will supply you with a basic list, but you will need to add family and office numbers, your doctor, armed Response Company etc.
We recommend that your home have the following safety features, whether or not it is in a gated community or cluster complex:
An alarm system, with fixed and portable panic buttons– see below
Automated garage doors and gates(of particular importance for free standing houses)
An intercom system to screen visitors and control entry
Good lighting to illuminate access points – automatic light sensor equipment is best.
Street number so that emergency personnel can easily see and locate the property.
It is important to have a good quality, easy to operate alarm system that is linked to a security control room. The alarm system should have the following features:
A keypad at entry point to residence and another in the main bedroom
Zones that can be isolated for accessibility and movement once activated
Fixed and mobile panic buttons to summon help
Ensure that you and all the family are fully conversant in the operation of the system.
Do not demonstrate security systems or provide your alarm code to anyone other than those who need to know, and who you trust.
Your alarm system and panic buttons should be tested regularly to ensure that they are in good working order
The most risky moment is when you arrive home, so it is then that you must be at your most vigilant. Ensure that during the period that the gate is opening you are in a position to drive away, such as parked on the other side of the road. Once through the gate close it immediately and make sure it has closed before proceeding into the house.
When moving into your home for the first time change the alarm code as the existing one may be known to previous contractors, staff etc. If it is a newly installed system you should change the code as criminals know that the factory codes are set at either “1 2 3 4” or “2 4 6 8” etc.
Domestic staff, gardeners, au-pairs will have access to your home, and it is therefore important that they are trustworthy. Apart from checking their references (that means phoning the referees they provide) before employing them, it is a good idea to:
Record employees’ details and make copies of their identification documents.
Prepare a personal data sheet listing next of kin, family address and contact telephone numbers. Include any known medical conditions.
Set firm rules around access to the property; especially for their friends and family.
It is recommended that you register with your Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. Your Embassy will keep you informed of any threats to your safety, have evacuation procedures in place and will be able to assist in the event of your losing your passport. The requirements for registering with embassies vary from one to another but will include the completion of a form, providing your passport details, address and contact numbers. All Embassy and Consulates are listed in the Yellow Pages Directory under “Consulates and Embassies”, or you can dial 1023 or 10118 for your Embassy’s number, or visit the following website: www.dfa.gov.za.
To register at your embassy, you will need to take some or all of:
Detail pages of passports
Photos of family members
Numbers of your own national ID docs if you have them
Birth & marriage certificates
Drivers License & Car Registration docs (in case of an accident)
Other details such as your bank accounts and location of will/attorney and next of kin in your home country may also be advisable in case of accident
The US State Department encourages American citizens to maintain readiness for all possibilities of terrorism and urges American citizens in South Africa to register with the embassy. You can download the registration form from their website at:www.southafrica.usembassy.gov and fax it to the consulate at 011 646 6916, or make an appointment to register in person
For more information, contact them on:
Tel: + 27 11 644 8114
If involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you are not hurt and another car is involved, get out of the car and write down the registration number obtain the other drivers personal details, insurance details and Licence number.
If no one has been injured you can move the car, leave the scene of the accident and drive to the nearest police station to report the accident (see below).
If there has been an injury - do not move the car under any circumstances and do not leave the scene of the accident.
Call: Police – 10111
Traffic Emergencies: 011 490 1500
Ambulance Services: 10177 (if injuries)
Cell phone Emergency Numbers: 112
We suggest you code the above numbers into your cell phone.
If the car needs to be towed away, tow trucks are usually very quick to get to the scene of an accident – do not have your car towed away by tow trucks that are not AA approved, and be sure to get documentation from the tow truck driver, including: what has been left in the car (radio; spare tyre; tools etc.); the name of the driver; name of the tow truck company; contact details and where they are taking vehicle to. If you are a member of the AA, call their Emergency number (0800 010101) as they will provide roadside assistance.
Remove all personal effects before the car is towed: phones; wallet; radio cover; CDs; house keys and remote controls – everything you can aside from one car key.
Report the accident at a Police Station – within 24 hours
Go to the nearest police station:
Produce your Driver’s Licence.
Give a description of the accident (including a drawing of the position of the cars at the time of collision); street address where the accident occurred; the speed you were travelling at; visibility; the details of the other driver; and cause of the accident – this needs to be accurate as your insurance company will obtain a copy of your and the other driver’s statement when assessing the claim.
If they don’t issue one on the spot, you will be given a telephone number to call in 24 hours and will be issued with a Case Number.
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible – they will provide you with a Claim Form and will require all details of the accident, including the Case Number.
If you are driving a rental car, follow the procedure above but contact the rental company as soon as possible.
If Your Cell (Mobile) is Stolen
Contact your service provider and ask them to block your SIM card.
Report the theft to the police and provide them with make, model and serial number.
Ensure the police give you a case number.
Give your service provider your case and serial number.
If you are separately insured, report the theft to your insurance company.
Request a SIM swap – you will get a new card, but retain your old number.
VODACOM 011 635 5000 or 082 1083
MTN 083 173
CELL C 084 140
VIRGIN MOBILE 0741 000 123
Don’t request a trace on your phone, unless it is a matter of life and death. This requires a court order, which is a lengthy process.