Safety & Security in Johannesburg
Johannesburg has a lot of tension between the citizens because of how the poverty and wealth levels are not shared equally. As a result, Johannesburg has a very high crime rate that takes place day and night. There are plenty of safe areas to go, however every tourist should take some precautions to avoid any problems.
Well not as bad as you think. Is safe to drive. Of course you have no go area’s in the city, but as a tourist you will not come there, so….no problem . And if you have somebody with you, they know were you can go. It is a great county and you me amazed!
Just use common sense and you’ll be fine. Don’t leave any valuables lying around or in plain sight in the car. Also if you can avoid carrying large amount of cash do so, you can use a credit card almost everywhere. Also don’t walk alone in the evenings, better to take a taxi. As a tourist you will not go to the high crime areas. So don’t worry and just enjoy your trip.
Of course there is crime in SA, just as there is in UK or any other country. Just act sensibly, stick to the tourist places and you will join the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit SA and have a fantastic holidays there.
As with other Global City Regions, Gauteng experiences its share of crime. To reduce the incidence of crime, many initiatives have been put in place and dialogue between the relevant public and private bodies remain ongoing.
Following are a number of useful tips aimed at keeping you safe while you enjoy the many attractions Gauteng has to offer:
At the Airport
1. Make sure your bags and luggage are locked and do not place valuables in unlocked, zipped side compartments. A luggage wrapping service is offered at major airports, including O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, where your bag can be wrapped in plastic to prevent tampering.
2. Do not leave your belongings unattended.
3. Be wary of staged mishaps such as people bumping into you as this may be an attempt to divert your attention while an accomplice commits robbery.
4. Carry your purse/wallet close to your body.
5. Be wary of transport touts, who approach you at the airport offering their services. Only use clearly marked taxis and find out which companies offer legitimate services at the official information desks at the airport. Most accommodation establishments offer transfer services to and from the airport. The convenient Gautrain is a modern, high-speed rail link that is another option to use.
At your Accommodation
1. Do not leave your luggage unattended and ensure that only a member of staff assists you.
2. Lock your luggage in your room and keep your valuables in the hotel safe deposit box.
3. Keep your room locked at all times and check who is at the door before opening it.
4. Hand in your room key when you go out and inform the receptionist as to your whereabouts.
5. Most hotels have safety and security information available and will be able to advise on local areas to avoid.
On the Streets
1. Plan your route beforehand and do not stop in remote areas.
2. Do not stop to ask directions or check your map on the street, rather head for a petrol station, where it is common to get directions when lost, or a public area.
3. Arrange outings through your accommodation establishment, nearest tourism office, or tour operator. Book through accredited establishments, with memberships and affiliations with associations such as ASATA, SATSA, IATA, TGCSA, SATOA, etc.
4. Do not carry large sums of money with you or display jewelry.
5. Do not walk alone at night.
At Banks and ATMs
1. Refuse assistance from anyone trying to help you while conducting a transaction.
2. Ensure you have your bank’s number so you can call and cancel your card immediately if it gets stuck or retained by the automatic teller machine (ATM).
3. Do not allow people to see that you are carrying cash and rather put your money away while you are at the bank counter.
4. Ensure that you are not being followed when you leave the bank or ATM.
5. When putting in your code at an ATM, hide your selection by covering the keypad.
On the Road
1. Hire a vehicle with a satellite navigation device or acquire a map and study it before you go on your trip. Check the safety of the area you are visiting through your accommodation establishment or a tourist information bureau before you leave.
2. Lock all valuables in the trunk of your car rather than having them visible in the vehicle. Keep the doors locked and do not wind the windows down more than a few centimetres.
3. Remain alert and aware at all times, especially at traffic lights (commonly called ‘robots’) and in parking garages.
4. Never pick up strangers or hitchhikers.
5. Do not accept lifts from people unknown to you. Rather use an official taxi service and keep their number with you.
6. If you are in an accident of any sort and feel uncomfortable, rather signal to the driver to follow you to the nearest police station or a busy, well-lit area where you feel safe to get out of the car.
7. Park in well-lit areas at night.
8. Car hijacking remains a concern, especially at intersections and on- and off-ramps at highways, so remain vigilant and keep a safe distance between your car and the cars in front and behind you, keep your door locked and be wary of people approaching you.
Any Emergency (from a Mobile phone): 112
Netcare 911 (Life-threatening Emergencies): +27 (0)82911
Police Flying Squad: 10111
Automobile Association (Roadside Assistance): +27 (0)11 799 1000
Johannesburg Central Metropolitan Police: +27 (0)11 375 5911
National Tourism Information Centre (24 Hours): +27 (0)83 123 2345
OR Tambo International Airport: +27 (0)11 921 6262
OR Tambo International Airport – Arrivals and Departures:: +27 (0)86 727 7888
Local Number Enquiries: 1023
International Numbers Enquiries: 10903
Child Protection/Domestic Violence/Sexual Offences Unit +27 (0)11 403 3413
Fire Brigade: +27 (0)11 624 2800
Poison Information Control: +27 (0)11 495 5112
The Tourism Child Protection Code of Conduct: +27 (0)12 342 2945
The Most Important of All: Your Personal Safety
Johannesburg’s “rival” city, Cape Town, often prides itself with being much safer than Gauteng’s metropolis. Unfortunately, there is truth to this claim: Johannesburg can be a dangerous place, even by South African standards. Obviously your personal experience of the city might be a different one, depending on which neighborhood you choose to settle in and whether or not you opt for the various security measures popular with expatriates. You will surely not be under constant threat at all times, but you should be aware of the potential dangers.
These dangers are visible and widespread enough — occurring in all areas of the city, although in varying frequency — to prompt the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) of the US Department of State to rate the crime threat in Johannesburg as “critical”. The range of criminal activity in the city includes petty theft and pick-pocketing, scams (for example the infamous “419” scam and ATM manipulation), violent and confrontational crime such as robberies and burglaries. All these crimes are carried out in various degrees of sophistication, often by groups of experienced perpetrators. Elaborate armed robberies targeted at businesses or cash transports have reportedly been on the rise in the past years, but will probably rarely affect expatriates.
Violence in general is often seen by criminals as a viable ways of achieving whatever goals they had in mind. The inhibition threshold for resorting to violence is notoriously low amongst South Africa’s criminal elements — a mugger with a gun or knife is likely to use their weapon if provoked. If you should ever find yourself in a situation in which you are threatened, do not try to resist or even fight back. As there is no way of being 100% safe of being robbed, no matter what neighborhood you might be in, it is best to make yourself as little of an obvious target as possible. Do not carry large amounts of cash or valuables with you. Make copies of your important documents and keep the originals in a safe location in your home. The City of Johannesburg offers a fairly long list of safety tips for visitors, expats, and residents alike.
Security at Home
As we have already pointed out in our article on moving to Johannesburg, many expatriates and well-to-do citizens of Johannesburg opt for gated communities and compounds, which regularly feature camera surveillance, security personnel, as well as walls or fences. Johannesburg and Gauteng in general face a large number of home invasions, oftentimes with the victim being at home at the time of the burglary — the rising popularity and availability of high security gated communities is not a coincidence.
While these communities offer the highest possible level of security, they are not a guarantee for safety — as we have mentioned above, crime in Johannesburg can be carried out on an astonishing level of sophistication. However, even the most nervous of expats can feel at ease in one of the upscale compounds in the more affluent parts of Johannesburg. Again, it is entirely possible — and, for many expats, even probable — that you will not experience a lot of criminal activity during your time as an expat in Johannesburg. However, you should still be aware of the risks.
The city administration has heightened their efforts of combating crime, particularly in the Central Business District, where large scale camera surveillance and plans of reshaping the neighborhood so as to attract businesses and young professionals have somewhat alleviated the dire situation the district was in during the 1990s. But even though the actual crime rate in Johannesburg has decreased in recent years, Gauteng’s largest city still cannot shake its infamous reputation. The city’s Integrated Development Plan focuses on tackling the crime problem in two ways: by improving the living situation in the poorer parts of town, and by increasing the police force’s numbers and visibility. Results might not be immediate, but the city has hopes of lowering crime rates even further in the next years to come.
South African safety precautions are not unlike those recommended when travelling to other countries and major cities. More common sense than hard and fast measures, safety precautions in South Africa mostly require vigilance on behalf of the traveller and sound travel preparation.
Important South African safety advice includes avoiding deserted areas at night; securing valuables such as photographic equipment and wallets on your person; and leaving expensive, flashy jewellery in your hotel safe while out and about.
Other safety precautions you may want to consider include:
• Locking valuables and luggage away in the car boot while travelling (never leave handbags or cameras on car seats)
• Being vigilant of your luggage and other belongings (never leave them unattended).
• Storing valuables in your hotel safe.
• Limit the amount of money you carry on your person. Also, don’t accept offers of assistance at ATMs and keep your pin numbers secure.
• When using a credit card in restaurants, ask the waiter to bring a portable credit card machine to your table. Report stolen or lost cards immediately.
• Carry a current road map with you. If you’re in any doubt about a place you wish to visit or how to get there, have a word with your hotel concierge first or contact the National Tourism Information and Safety Line on 083 123 2345 for assistance.
• Only use reputable tour operators and travel and transport services. If you’re not sure, ask your hotel to recommend a service provider for you.
• In rural areas, watch out for wild or farm animals – road signage will warn you when you need to take care.
• If you intend travelling to malaria areas, take the necessary prophylaxis before you leave home.