Identikidz project tags record number of children at Strand beach

Five-year-old Jacques Alexander can be seen at Strand beach wearing his Identikidz wristband. Jacques is one of more than 10 000 children who benefited from this summer’s Identikidz child safety project. PICTURE: CARMEN JACOBS

The safety of children visiting beaches in the Helderberg Basin was once again boosted by the Identikidz project.

The project, is a safety initiative run by the City of Cape Town’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development departments.

Mayoral committee member for community services and health, councillor Patricia Van der Ross, gave Bolander an overview on the project’s performance at Strand, Gordon’s Bay and Harmony Park beaches, and says Strand beach has been the location with the highest number of children tagged this summer season.

She says during the New Year’s long weekend 6 487 children were tagged at Strand beach with 45 children reunited.

City statistics further reveal 4 978 children were tagged at Gordon’s Bay, with 11 reunited, while at Harmony Park 6 225 children had been registered with one reunited.

“Strand has seen a slight increase year-on-year, and while there has been a downturn at the other two locations, overall, the very positive indicator is the significant drop in the number of children who’ve been separated from their caregivers.

“Ultimately, that is what the City hopes to achieve with Identikidz – a safe, and worry-free outing to our coastal areas for families,” says Ms Van der Ross.

To illustrate the success of the project locally, Ms Van der Ross refers to incidents where a 5-year-old found walking at Strand beach on his own were reunited with his parents by project staff.

“In Gordon’s Bay, a car guard was found walking with two children who had been tagged. The children were taken into our staff’s care, who were able to locate their parents,” she relays another Identikidz intervention.

Ward councillor for ward 86 in Strand, Xolani Diniso, says the programme has over the years made a noticeable difference in decreasing the number of children reported lost at the beach.

“It’s public knowledge that during every festive season we do get an influx of visitors coming to Cape Town for the holidays from other provinces, especially the Eastern Cape, and most of them go to Strand and Gordon’s Bay beaches.

“In previous years we heard of many instances where children were getting lost at the beach due to the high capacity of people during the busy festive season and it was too difficult for parents to keep track of their children’s whereabouts; so, this is where we can applaud this programme as it assists parents to ensure there is no parents going home without their children.”

His hope for the project to not only be a seasonal programme. “It should not only be run during the festive season or holiday but should be run throughout the year as an ongoing programme.”

A parent at Strand Beach, Bonita Petersen, from Macassar, had three children tagged with the Identikidz wristbands on Saturday January 13. “They came to us and offered the service, I did it because if the child goes missing then we can go back to the people, and they then have all the information as to what the child is wearing and know what to look for.”

Another parent, Anthea Alexander from Bishop Lavis, registered her five-year-old son, Jacques Alexander. “I just thought should anything happen to him, then I know they will find him and identify him from the band that he is wearing.”

The Identikidz project starts in the December holidays each year.

The project started last year during the weekend of December 15 and its final run for this summer season will be on Saturday January 20 and Sunday January 21.

At the time of Bolander’s publication statistics indicated that more than 104 450 children were tagged during the 2023/2024 Identikidz season and 281 of these children were reunited.

Launched officially in the summer season of 2016/2017, Ms Van der Ross says the project has grown over the years.

In answer to whether Identikidz staff has seen an increase in willingness amongst parents and guardians to participate, she says: “Yes, the statistics show that people want to participate in the project. As is the case each year, there are people who decline to have their children tagged and that is their prerogative. However, we are very encouraged by the statistics, which serve as a reminder of the value that the Identikidz project offers.”

Officials from the City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department, who are involved in running the Identikidz project, from left, are Denise Kriel, Mandisa Banjwa, Cornelia Jaftha, with Councillor Patricia Van der Ross, mayoral committee member for community services and health; Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and official Robyn Arendse. PICTURE: CITY OF CAPE TOWN