SAfrica ups Table Mountain security to fight crime

Undeterred by the devastating effects of recent fires, visitors enjoy the sights of Cape Town's landmark Table Mountain March 23, 2006. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Authorities are boosting security at South Africa’s Table Mountain to fight crime that has caused a drop in tourist numbers, a Cape Town city official said on Thursday.

Councilor Simon Grindrod said the mountain’s Signal Hill area -- popular with lovers seeking a secluded spot or tourists wanting unparalleled views across Table Bay -- will have 24-hour security in place from May 13.

The new measures include foot patrols, closed-circuit TV, panic buttons, motion detectors and increased lighting.

“South Africa is at the cusp of its biggest tourism draw card in its history, the 2010 Soccer World Cup,” Grindrod said in a statement.

“It sends the wrong signal when we pack up and leave an attraction simply because of the threat of crime. Let us stand up and find a solution,” he said, adding private security companies Chubb and Fidelity would provide their services for free as part of the new plan.

Some 1.5 million people visit Signal Hill every year, but increasing crime has seen access curbed significantly. Viewing will now be extended to 1 a.m., Grindrod said.

South Africa, which has among the world’s worst statistics for violent crime outside a war zone, is battling perceptions of being an unsafe destination ahead of the 2010 World Cup.

Crime on Table Mountain, with hikers and cyclists providing easy pickings for muggers, has prompted calls for the army to be deployed.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Caroline Drees