Missing children scare

Zoe McCarthy, 6, from Eastridge wears an identification tag on her right wrist. Law enforcement agencies tagged children visiting beaches to track them down speedily should they go missing or get lost. See more pictures on page 3.

Close to 100 children were reported missing on Mnandi beach over the festive season. This has prompted safety agencies to urge parents to be vigilant and most importantly, not to consume alcohol on the beaches.

According to Mitchell’s Plain police, 98 children went missing on the Blue Flag beach between Monday December 26 and Monday January 2.

Mitchell’s Plain police spokesperson Captain Ian Williams said every day since, children have gone missing but have subseqently been reunited with their family.

According to police statistics on Monday December 26 (Day of Goodwill) 21 children went missing and on New Year’s Day, Sunday January 1, 26 children were reported missing.

According to the City of Cape Town there were about 250 000 visitors at the beaches over the Christmas long weekend – 100 000 of them on December 26.

Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum Abie Isaacs said parents must be vigilant and not drink alcohol on the beach or arrive intoxicated. Mr Isaacs is one of 15 volunteers who have been patrolling on the beach during the festive period. He said the volunteers were working in the CPF’s Child Rapid Response Unit.

“Our duty is to ensure the safety of children on the beaches. Our main concern is young children, under the age of 10 going missing. We find children roaming around looking for their parents. Then we have parents leaving the beach without their children. Clearly these parents are irresponsible and should be dealt with,” he said.

Public relations officer for the CPF, Ashley Potts, encouraged parents to have their children tagged at the beach, so that if they go missing – or if they are found wandering around alone – it is easy to identify them. “Parents and guardians make sure your child is tagged and if you have a recent photo of them, bring it along,” he said.

Mr Isaacs said the CPF had worked exceptionally well with Mitchell’s Plain police, law enforcement, traffic services and the Department of Safety.

“This is what Mitchell’s Plain needs. They need safety agencies to work together towards a common goal. I would like to thank the volunteers for their hard work. They have been dedicated since day one. We also would like to encourage businesses to help and support us with any donations, such as water and refreshments,” he said.

Mitchell’s Plain police station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam said 30 policemen had been deployed to Mnandi beach for the festive season. “The members patrol every day, all day on the beaches. There are also policemen at every entry point to ensure that people do not come inside the beach with alcohol or drugs. So far there has been great teamwork with the safety agencies, especially the CPF,” he said.

MEC for Social Development, Albert Fritz, said he was aware of the number of missing children. “I am getting reports daily regarding the number of lost and missing children. What usually happens is when a child goes missing, the police are informed and (the child) is taken home. If a child cannot be reunited they are referred to the Department of Social Development.

Mr Fritz said depending on the circumstances of the case, the social worker will do an assessment and if they have neglected the child, they will be held accountable. “The child will not be returned to the parent if they are intoxicated,” he said.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said there were two reported drownings in Mitchell’s Plain. At Mnandi Beach an 18-year-old man drowned on Monday December 5 and at Wolfgat beach, a 30-year-old man drowned on Sunday December11.

Mr Smith said Strandfontein Pavilion was by far the busiest beach along the False Bay coast on the day the victim drowned. “There were, however, fewer problems experienced compared with previous years and also less alcohol confiscated. A young child was saved from drowning after experiencing a seizure in the tidal pool,” he said.