30 June 2012


Social media is an integral part of the lives of many South Africans. Initially, many were concerned that social media could be used by perpetrators to get personal information about their potential victims. People still need to be vigilant in who they accept as friends, with what they post on their accounts, and their privacy settings. Although there have been a number of such cases in South Africa, often because the victim did not use adequate privacy settings, anti-crime South Africans have found a way to use social media to their advantage. Social media can be effective if the community and the security services work together. Twitter and Facebook are often trending with the details of a crime, especially hijackings. Twitter, especially, is very useful in getting important information out to the public as quickly as possible.

Earlier this week, a radio DJ's wife was shot in an attempted hijacking on Far East Bank Drive near the Gautrain's Marlboro station. When he received her call for help, he contacted the well-known tweeter Pigspotter who mobilised his contacts in the emergency services. The young woman is recovering in ICU after undergoing operations.

Also this week, a robbery suspect was arrested in Laudium, outside Pretoria, minutes after the anonymous SMS tip-off service, Crime Line posted three photographs of the wanted 36-year-old man on Facebook and Twitter. Within 15 minutes of posting the photos, Crime Line received a message on Facebook of the man's whereabouts. The suspect allegedly sneaked into a wedding reception at the local community centre, and stole a firearm and a phone which he took from a guest's handbag. The suspect has confessed to the crime. He sold the firearm for R550 and the phone for R700.

A Bryanston family, recently robbed at gunpoint in their home, managed to find the location of their stolen phone using the Apple app, Find My iPhone/iPad. This led to the arrest of the criminals. Just hours after the robbers made their getaway, the Police found them at a house in Tembisa after the family activated app. The police say the men have been linked to several other robberies in Douglasdale, Randburg and Bryanston. The app is used as a real-time GPS location-tracking device and users can watch on an iPhone or iPad as the location is pinpointed on a map. The person holding the device doesn't know they are being tracked.

In Cape Town, another iPad user took an hour to get his iPad back after it was stolen in a smash-and-grab on Nelson Mandela Boulevard. The man had stopped his car to answer his phone, when two youths robbed him. He phoned a friend, who accessed his internet account and tracked the iPad to a nearby flat. The iPad was retrieved, but the thieves were scared off by messages blaring from the device.