On high alert: FIFA World Cup security concerns

School children at a soccer coaching clinic with Ajax Cape Town soccer team members, in the  outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. The clinic was held in celebration of 200 days to go before the kick-off of the FIFA World Cup to be held in South Africa in 2010. AP

In the July 7 article, which caused outrage in South Africa, Louise Taylor says the country's high violent crime rates made her balk at anything other than the garden-variety "Cape Town/Garden Route-type holiday".

Taylor then goes on to argue that the Cup should have gone to Egypt, because "in terms of crime, Egypt is extremely safe".  As if to spite her, 35 people were injured last week in rioting outside the Algerian embassy in Cairo following Algeria's victory over Egypt in the World Cup play-offs.
When quizzed about their country's well-documented crime problem, South Africans are quick to point out that no country is completely safe.
"When I go to the US, I'm told not to go to Underground Atlanta. When I go to London, I'm told not to go to Brixton," national police commissioner Bheki Cele says.
But South Africa still has a mountain to climb to reassure World Cup visitors on the safety score. Around 50 people are murdered each day in the country and another 50 the object of a murder attempt.
While most of the murders are carried out in townships by people who are known to their victims, car hijackings and armed robberies - crimes more likely to affect tourists - are on the increase.
The number of vehicle hijackings rose to 14,915 over the past year, and robberies at shopping malls are also increasingly frequently.
South Africa points to its record in successfully hosting major tournaments, including the Indian cricket Premier League in April and the Confederations Cup in June, as proof it has a handle on event security.
"Judge us on our record," World Cup local organizing committee chief executive Danny Jordaan pleaded with European journalists at the end of the Confed Cup, where the biggest crime story was the theft of cash from the hotel rooms of some members of the Egypt team.
"The security preparations for the World Cup makes me sleep well, like a child," Cele, who came into the job in July urging police to step up their use of lethal force against criminals, told the German Press Agency DPA.
With 41,000 police set aside to secure the tournament, "we'll be ready for any eventuality in air, water, on land," including a terrorist threat, he said.
The police, who have received training in crowd control from French anti-riot police, will be supported by 200-strong "rapid intervention" units in each of the 11 provinces, he said.
Among the other extraordinary measures planned are special courts to quickly try crimes committed during the Cup and rolling police stations attached to the back of inter-city trains.
The coaches, which will be added to trains transporting fans from Johannesburg to Durban, Cape Town or Port Elizabeth, according to the 2010 local organizing committee, will have an office and two holding cells, meaning troublemakers could be charged and behind bars before arriving in the next city.
South Africa's police are also cooperating with police from participating countries, who will send small teams to help monitor their citizens.
English football hooligans are particularly feared in South Africa. "There's a peculiar behaviour of the British fans that will be better understood by British police," Cele said.
Further bolstering police efforts will be the numerically superior army of private security guards that are hired to watch over homes, hotels, restaurants, malls and museums.
The teams will come with their own security detail. A company bidding to protect the German team drew flak in South Africa for reportedly suggesting the players don bullet-proof vests for sorties outside their Pretoria hotel.
Some local companies are offering visitors personalized round-the- clock armed protection.
Acompany calling itself World Cup Security tells visitors to its website (www.2010worldcupsecurity.com) that "tourists become car-hijack victims en route near the airports every single day" - a gross exaggeration.
Promising 'on-the-ground' crack security for groups, the company warns: "South African criminals are usually armed, and sometimes totally ruthless," but reassures "So are we, but with a low profile!"

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