While more than 50,000 spectators celebrated the Springboks’ victory over the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, a few unfortunate visitors’ evening ended in tears, frustration and anger due to miscreants who looted their mobile phones.
Many victims complained on social media that their mobile phones were stolen during or after the game. One woman’s mobile phone was simply grabbed when she tried to take down the two planes that flew over the stadium before the match.
“My wife’s was grabbed from her hand while she was trying to take down the two Safair planes. Everyone stood dead still and no one tried to run away,” writes one user on Facebook.
The man says the perpetrator put the mobile phone in his pocket and pretended he didn’t know anything when they started looking for the phone. They noticed the mobile phone in the man’s pocket and then “suddenly he is full of stories about the phone falling and someone giving it to him”.
The Facebook user says they reported the grab theft to the stadium’s security guards, but it is unclear if any further action followed.
However, other victims lost their mobile phones permanently.
One victim whose cell phone was stolen from her jacket pocket just outside the stadium gate says a Brooklyn police officer said Sunday around 10:00 a.m. that she was the twentieth victim to have a cell phone stolen from the stadium since 6:00 a.m. reported.
The stadium falls under the Sunnyside Police’s policing area and victims were referred there. Here a form had to be filled in which is specifically used for reporting a stolen or lost mobile phone. However, it appears that the form does not serve to open a theft case.
Col. Gauteng police spokesperson Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said when asked that only one formal case had been filed “and the other individuals who claim that their mobile phones were lost have not filed formal cases”.
“About nine mobile phones were recovered,” he says.
Nevhuhulwi did not comment on further inquiries about the forms or the cases.
“I was under the impression that the form meant that I had filed a theft case. At no stage did any police officer ask me if I wanted to file a ‘formal case’,” said the victim.
Stadium tries to prevent crime
Hugo Kemp, operations manager at the Loftus Versfeld stadium, says the frequent theft of mobile phones, wallets and even handbags at the stadium is “a fairly new trend that has emerged this year”.
This has particularly taken off since the stadium started selling cheaper rugby tickets.
“We didn’t expect it to be such a big problem at the last rugby match, since the tickets were so much more expensive and Jan Alleman couldn’t simply get access to the stadium,” he says.
“Of the cases that we are aware of, it does seem that it mostly happened as people moved out of the stadium in droves after the game.”
According to Kemp, the stadium management learned lessons from events earlier this year and made sure that there were enough feet on the ground to monitor the situation.
A total of 600 rookie law enforcement officers were deployed around the stadium, while another 200 were on duty inside the stadium.
“The management did meet with the police after the match to discuss the evening and it became clear that we need to rethink how we are going to deal with this situation. We thought it would be under control with all the officers, but it is still a problem.”
Kemp appealed to spectators to remain vigilant and aware of any possible criminality around them.
“We have heard of cases where people’s mobile phones were simply stolen from their hands while they were walking. It is therefore important to store your mobile phone in a bag that can be closed,” he says.
After it came to light that several mobile phones were also stolen during the rugby match, there was concern that vehicle theft was also a problem.
However, Nevhuhulwi says the police are not aware of any stolen vehicle (from a stadium visitor), and that no case has been filed.
Kemp does say that the stadium management is doing everything in its power to ensure that people do not have to park on pavements.
Loftuspark has around 1,000 parking spaces, another 900 parking spaces are available at Pretoria High School for Girls, as well as 700 at Afrikaans Hoër Meisieskool. Parking spaces have even been purchased at student housing to cater for all the spectators at Loftus.
Kemp says there are around 3,500 parking spaces in and around the stadium.
There are also special bus services that can shuttle spectators from a nearby shopping center to Loftus’ doorstep.
“We don’t immediately have all the answers on how to tackle the problem effectively, but we are committed to finding solutions,” says Kemp.
Water dries up
Regarding complaints of a lack of water to the stadium, Kemp says it came to their attention an hour before the match that the dressing rooms in the main pavilion have no water.
After an investigation, and Kemp missing the entire game in hopes of clearing up the problem, it turned out that clogged water meters caused the problem.
“I suspect the problem arose because the metro has been working on pipes in the street for the past few weeks.”
The water supply was restored, but because it took some time for the tanks to fill up, the water supply to the main pavilion was not fully restored until Sunday morning.
The north and south pavilions were not affected by the water outage, as there are larger water tanks serving the pavilions and they did not empty as quickly.