Recent police reports have told of incidents in which criminals have impersonated police officers, telling their victims that they are conducting police investigations or offering assistance and then robbing them of money and other valuables.
People's Post (21 November) reported about two men who had been arrested by Diep River Police for impersonating a police officer, kidnapping and armed robbery. The two allegedly tried to lure a 13-year-old boy who lives in the area into their car by telling him that they were police officers and would give him a lift home. When the boy refused, he was pulled into the car, robbed and then left at an open field in Hanover Park.
More recently, Wynberg SAPS report two scams that have emerged in their precinct at the start of the festive season.
According to Superintendent Ruffie Nel, the Wynberg Police spokesperson, in the first scam suspects approach someone and say they are police officers, and show police badges to back the claim.
"They say they are busy with an investigation of a person who has been robbed of money a few minutes earlier and demand that the complainant hands over his money for inspection, to see if it is not from the alleged robbery.
"If a person refuses to hand over the money, an accomplice is called who says that he is a captain - an official of high rank - and demands the handover of the money," Nel explains.
If money is handed over, the bogus police officers instruct the person to put the money in an envelope. One will then take the money away and return later with an envelope, which will be found to be filled with old papers.
In the second scam, suspects follow people from their bank, drop money in front of them and, when they reach to pick it up, will approach the people and take them to a quiet spot to supposedly split the money. Once out of the public eye, the criminals will produce police badges and proceed with the same story used in the first scam.
According to Inspector Angie Latchman, spokesperson for the Diep River Police, there have been three cases of impersonating police officers in the Diep River area in the past year.
"The criminals obtain the police badges through thefts in which police personnel have been victims of crime while in the line of duty," she says.
Inspector Latchman says people should demand to see an SAPS appointment certificate, which is issued to each police member.
"The appointment certificate is in the form of a white credit card, with a colour photograph of the member. It is not laminated. A special feature is a holographic image of an aloe on the appointment card, and the card will have the official's identity document number on the reverse side with the signature of the National Commissioner of Police.
"If a member of the public is confronted by anybody who identifies him or herself as a police officer, they have the right to ask that person for proper identification, where they are stationed and their contact details.
"If there are any doubts as to whether a person is a genuine officer or not, remember that a police badge used on a uniform is not an appointment certificate," Inspector Latchman says.
She points out that impersonating a police officer is a punishable offence and such an impersonator will, on conviction, be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
Anyone who is not authorised to use police decorations such as badges or medals and does so shall be liable to a fine or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.