By Melanie Nathan, September 21, 2023
AN LGBTQIA+ rights activist noted Grindr was being used by criminal syndicates to target gay men seeking romantic connections on the online dating platform.
Gauteng police have rescued a Wits University student who was lured and kidnapped via the gay dating site Grindr.
The student was found bound and unconscious at the Denver Men's Hostel in the east of Johannesburg.
Seven men have been arrested.
Police in the South African province of Gauteng have arrested 7 men who allegedly kidnapped a Wits University student after luring him through the gay dating site Grindr, kidnapping him and demanding a ransom from his family.
News 24 reports that Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Brenda Muridili said the student's roommate reported him missing on Tuesday, on the same day. "It is reported that he was lured to the suspects through a dating site called Grindr. The suspects demanded R30 000 from his family for his safe return," Muridili said.
On Wednesday, a team comprising members of the Gauteng Crime Intelligence, Organised Crime Investigations, Hillbrow detectives, the Johannesburg Trio Detectives, the Johannesburg Metro Police K9 Unit, security companies that included Vision Tactical, JT VIP, CAP Security and Fidelity operationalised information that led them to an ATM where one of the suspects was expected to withdraw the ransom.
Muridili said the police arrested the suspect as soon as he arrived and he then "led the team to Denver Men's Hostel [in the east of Johannesburg], where the victim, aged 18, was found bound and unconscious".
She said six more suspects were arrested and the student was rushed to hospital. The team recovered three knives and the student's personal belongings.
The men were charged with kidnapping and extortion, and are expected to appear in court soon.
"The team is currently investigating the possibility of linking these suspects to other cases in Gauteng with the same modus operandi," Muridili said.
SAPS Twitter Account noted: '#sapsGP The swift response by a multi-disciplinary team resulted in the rescue of a University of Witwatersrand student who was #kidnapped on 19/09 in Johannesburg. Seven suspects arrested. NP"
AN LGBTQIA+ rights activist noted Grindr was being used by criminal syndicates to target gay men seeking romantic connections on the online dating platform. "We, as the gay community, cannot be free as we are supposed to be because people are wearing masks and are not who they say they are.
"We are afraid of expressing ourselves because there have been many hate crimes and homophobic attacks," Nkosi said. "Justice fails us because we don't know where these cases end up when we do follow-ups, and there are also no arrests. "I don't feel safe as well. In any space that you go to, you don't feel safe. These homophobic attacks affect us mentally. What freedoms [can] we really celebrate?"
Meanwhile, the surveillance and security firm Vision Tactical has called for banning Grindr due to an alarming rise in incidents where victims have been lured to locations and then physically assaulted, robbed and held hostage.
"These criminals manipulate the victims into emptying their bank accounts, often by demanding deposits or coercing them into sharing their banking information.
"The recent surge in such crimes is increasingly worrisome and has prompted concerns among organizations and law enforcement," Vision Tactical director Yaseen Theba said. He said one of the main concerns was the lack of safety checks when accessing the app.
Theba added: Although Grindr stipulates that users should be at least 18 years old, there is no requirement for any form of identification during the registration process.
"This means that underage individuals can easily create profiles and interact with older men without any age verification.
"This inability to flag and ban users poses a significant risk as it allows vulnerable individuals to fall prey to suspects."
Unlike South Africa where LGBTQI+ people have their rights fully recognized by the constitution, full most African countries criminalize gay men and so victims of such a crime would probably be subject to arrest, even if rescued. In South Africa, while homophobia may be rife in many areas, at least the law compels action on the part of police. Let this serve as a warning, globally, as no one is immune to such bad actors, especially in places where they can operate with impunity. Please OP EN WAKKER! Be Alert. As a country conditions expert I have testified in asylum courts where people have described kidnapping even after developing trust over a decent period of time with someone from a dating app. You are never one hundred percent in the clear, even if you think you have known the person long enough. The only answer to being safe is - DON'T!