The arrival of spring and warmer weather means more people will be embracing their freedom to exercise and enjoy their wonderful suburban parks and other leisure areas.
Charnel Hattingh, National Marketing and Communications Manager at Fidelity ADT, says while the warmer weather and lifting of lockdown restrictions is good news, residents must bear personal safety in mind at all times when enjoying the outdoors.
“Crime has steadily increased as lockdown restrictions have deceased and what we are seeing at the moment is a lot of opportunistic crime – which is more than likely a sign of the desperate situations thousands of people find themselves in as a result of job losses and other pandemic-related factors,” she said.
Leisure areas, like parks and dams, can be hotspots for these types of crimes, she added.
“If you go out for a jog the last thing on your mind is probably being confronted by a violent criminal, but it does unfortunately happen. Other instances where people can be vulnerable to crime outdoors are in fairly isolated parks and on hiking trails, for example.
“Cyclists are also at risk, often because of the one thing which brings them the most joy – their bikes – and even dog walkers can be at risk.”
According to Hattingh, criminals who carry out these types of attacks often operate in pairs and will grab what they can in the frenzy of the attack.
“The obvious items they are after include cellphones, running shoes, bicycles, jewellery and cash. It is indeed a horrible thought that going for a bit of exercise in your new running gear can end you in a world of trouble, but it is a reality in South Africa,” she said.
Top 10 outdoor safety tips from Fidelity ADT:
- Carry as little as possible with you when you head outdoors to jog, walk, cycle or hike, leaving things like a cellphone, expensive jewellery or earphones at home.
- While point one is important, we understand a cellphone can be critical in an emergency. If you are going to carry a cellphone keep it concealed and only take it out when absolutely necessary. Have an emergency contact, like your local security company or CPF, on speed dial.
- Stick to areas which are popular with other outdoor enthusiasts, so that even if you are exercising or enjoying the outdoors alone you are still among people (keeping social distancing measures in mind, at all times).
- Always tell someone exactly where you are going and when you will be back.
- Even if you are in an area full of people, are they all really there to relax and exercise? Take note of who is around and look out for any suspicious people, vehicles or activities. Security companies regularly patrol park and leisure areas, so if you are concerned about anything go with your gut feeling and flag a security vehicle in the vicinity down.
- Carry pepper spray or a whistle with you to use in an emergency.
- Take a self-defence class. Many community organisations offer these as charity fund-raisers or free of charge, so find out what is available in your area – and invite your friends along!
- If you venture into areas you have not been before, to hike or cycle for example, rather go with a guide or someone else who knows the terrain and exactly what to expect on the trail.
- It is not advisable to enjoy the outdoors before dawn or after dusk. Criminals do strike during the day but are so much more comfortable finding their victims under the cover of darkness.
- Exercising or enjoying leisure activities (even a picnic) in groups is always safer.
“We all looked forward to regaining our freedom of movement but bear in mind our freedom of movement means more victims to target for criminals. There are ways to protect yourself from becoming a target though. Much of keeping yourself safe is about using common sense,” Hattingh concluded.