Dur­ban boy (8) groomed to steal

Post - - FRONT PAGE - CHAR­LENE SOMDUTH

VIDEO footage of a young boy steal­ing a cell­phone at a sa­lon in Chatsworth while a woman, be­lieved to be his mother, dis­tracted the hair­dresser, has gone vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.

Re­cent CCTV footage from shop­ping malls and restau­rants has re­vealed how par­ents are groom­ing their chil­dren to steal hand­bags, cell­phones and other items from un­sus­pect­ing pa­trons.

In the lat­est video, the boy is seen walk­ing into the sa­lon with two mid­dle-aged women. One of the women ap­proaches the re­cep­tion­ist desk and ap­pears to ask about a hair treat­ment.

The hair­dresser, who was seated at the desk, walks to the front of the sa­lon and chats to the woman. She leaves her cell­phone on the desk.

The boy, who is be­lieved to be about 8 years old, is seen lin­ger­ing near the desk.

He can been seen try­ing to take the cell­phone twice, but on both oc­ca­sions the hair­dresser looks at him.

On the third at­tempt, he quickly grabs the phone and puts it in his back pocket.

The boy is seen walk­ing to­ward the women. Once the women no­tices him stand­ing next to them, they quickly leave the store. Po­lice said the mat­ter had not been re­ported to them.

How­ever, Ma­hen­dra Lil­lkan, chair­per­son of the Shall­cross Com­mu­nity Fo­rum, said he re­ceived a call from the owner of the sa­lon in­form­ing him about the in­ci­dent.

“We tracked the phone to Ghats Street in Shall­cross. How­ever, we could not find the boy. I shared the video hop­ing that some­one would recog­nise the fam­ily so we could ar­range help for them.”

He said that after the video was posted he re­ceived in­for­ma­tion that this fam­ily had tar­geted a few sa­lons in Chatsworth with the same modus operandi.

“This boy is be­ing groomed to be a crim­i­nal. It will only be a mat­ter of time be­fore he gets in­volved in other se­ri­ous crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity. We want to stop this now be­fore it’s too late for him.”

Chan­dre Gould, a re­searcher at the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies, said this was not a new phe­nom­e­non but hap­pened all the time glob­ally.

“In these cases, so­cial de­vel­op­ment plays an im­por­tant role. One needs to look at the cir­cum­stances these chil­dren are com­ing from and whether or not their par­ents are fit enough to raise them.”

Gould said ac­tion needed to be taken against par­ents who groomed their chil­dren to be­come crim­i­nals.

Adeshini Naicker, Child­line’s op­er­a­tions man­ager in KwaZulu Natal, said groom­ing chil­dren for crime was an act of abuse.

“The child is be­ing ex­ploited and any form of ex­ploita­tion against chil­dren con­sti­tutes abuse. Sadly, these chil­dren have been groomed to see this be­hav­iour as be­ing ac­cept­able and nor­mal. With­out in­ter­ven­tion, they will most likely progress into adult thieves.”

Naicker ex­plained chil­dren were of­ten black­mailed into this kind of be­hav­iour.

“A child of 6 or 7 years old is prob­a­bly aware that it is wrong, but the early onset nor­malises the be­hav­iour. It would be safe to say that any child ex­ploited in this man­ner does not even have op­tions.”

Naicker said par­ents are aware that a child can­not be charged for these crimes, and very of­ten, par­ents deny any in­volve­ment or knowl­edge of the child’s acts with the hope that they will not be pros­e­cuted.

Last week, a Face­book user uploaded CCTV footage of an in­ci­dent from a restau­rant in Tyger Val­ley where his wife’s hand­bag was stolen.

The video shows two fam­i­lies seated back-to-back at the restau­rant. A child at one of the ta­bles reaches be­hind his seat and pulls out a hand­bag, which he passes to the woman seated across from him. Then, sec­onds later, a fourth per­son joins them at the ta­ble. She picks up the hand­bag and leaves the restau­rant, fol­lowed by the rest of the fam­ily.

In Novem­ber in the Western Cape, footage from a mall showed a woman with three chil­dren hov­er­ing around the food court. The woman pre­tends to be on her cell­phone while two of the chil­dren try to grab a woman’s hand­bag. After a few tries, a lit­tle girl is seen grab­bing the hand­bag, which is on the floor, while the owner is com­pletely un­aware. The chil­dren and woman then quickly walk away.

LEFT: Im­ages taken from CCTV footage shows the boy en­ter­ing the sa­lon with two women, one of whom is be­lieved to be his mother. ABOVE: The boy steals the cell­phone from the desk and puts it into his pocket. BE­LOW: He then joins the women at the front of the sa­lon and they quickly leave.

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