June 12 2009 at 07:50AM
By Caryn Dolley
Breathe. Try not to panic. And do what they say. This is how police say you should act if you find yourself the victim of a kidnapping situation.
In two weeks, police have responded to three kidnappings, which prompted officers to speak about the subject at the police's weekly press briefing on Thursday.
Herman Bosman, the hostage negotiation team's provincial co-ordinator, said if kidnapped, the most important thing to do was to try to stay calm. "Be calm and breathe. This is something you must cognitively tell yourself.
"You have to stay calm and comply (with your kidnappers). Don't resist them. Accept that it has happened to you," he said. Panicking could rattle the kidnappers and they could become violent.
Bosman warned the friends and relatives of hostages to be careful who they spoke to, as just one person could leak information which could be detrimental to the kidnapped person. "They should also phone the police on 10111. A lot of the time they don't do it, because they are told not to call the police. But kidnappers generally believe the police are involved anyway."
He said the person who received calls from kidnappers demanding a ransom also needed to remain calm.
Bosman warned relatives and friends from whom ransom was demanded not to just agree to pay it.
"Be careful. Making promises of paying does not guarantee the safe release of a hostage," he said.
In order to try to prevent falling victim to kidnappers, Bosman said people should keep personal details, especially their finances, private.
He said people needed to be aware of their surroundings and when driving, check if anyone was following them.
People also needed to be vigilant in parking areas - one of the places kidnappers struck two weeks ago.
"When you do go to shopping malls, go for the parking with lighting and maybe camera coverage and where there's a lot of activity," Bosman said.
In the latest incident, on Tuesday, security guards at a shopping complex in Nyanga discovered a seriously injured Kensington resident, 36, locked inside the boot of his vehicle.
Police believe the man, who is currently in a critical condition in hospital and in a coma, was kidnapped and robbed.
No arrests have been made.
Last week, a Hout Bay businessman was kidnapped from his home and his two kidnappers escaped with R4 000.
The week before, Constantia resident Sarah Lund, 40, was kidnapped from the parking area of the Constantia Village Shopping Centre.
Her three alleged kidnappers, currently in police custody, demanded R200 000, but police managed to rescue Lund and arrest them.
This article was originally published on page 6 of Cape Times on June 12, 2009