Police are investigating possible links between seven men and several other Grindr Gang cases (Photo: Brigadier Athlenda Mathe / Twitter)
In a significant development, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has apprehended a group of men suspected to be connected to dozens of so-called Grindr Gang cases that have targeted members of the LGBTQI+ community.
New of the major development was announced by SAPS Spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe on Thursday.
Kidnapped Student Rescued in Johannesburg
Brigadier Mathe revealed that the seven suspects were arrested in Denver, Johannesburg. They are alleged to have kidnapped a Wits University student by luring him through the Grindr dating app on 19 September.
The student was reported missing the same day by his roommate. The suspects demanded R30,000 from his family for his safe return.
On 20 September, a team comprising members of Gauteng Crime Intelligence, other police units and several security companies arrested one of the suspects when he attempted to withdraw the ransom money at an ATM.
He then led the team to Denver Men’s Hostel where the victim, aged 18, was found bound and unconscious. Six more suspects were arrested and the victim was rushed to hospital for medical attention.
“They are being linked to at least 85 cases where the LGBTQI+ community were targeted for ransom payments,” said Brigadier Mathe on Twitter.
Police recovered three knives and the student’s personal items. All seven will be charged with kidnapping and extortion and they will be appearing in court soon.
Grindr Gang Reign of Terror
For several years, numerous queer men, primarily in Johannesburg but also in Cape Town, have fallen victim to criminals via dating apps like Grindr.
These unsuspecting individuals are lured to meet others, only to be subjected to violence, threats, and theft. Many find themselves held captive while the criminals empty their bank accounts using the victim’s banking apps, or they are held for ransom.
In February, in response to an increase in incidents, the police announced the arrest of four suspects connected to one such event in Johannesburg.
This development raised hopes of an end to the Grindr Gang attacks. Unfortunately, reports of subsequent incidents revealed that criminals continued to target gay, bisexual, and queer men.
Despite our inquiries with the SAPS, we were unable to confirm reports about the release of the four men arrested in February or the status of allegations against them.
Stigma Leads to Underreported Crimes
Following a call for victims to come forward earlier this year, OUT LGBT Well-being received 13 reports of cases that occurred between June 2022 and February 2023 in various areas around Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni, including Sandton, Randburg, Fourways, Tembisa, Soweto, and Lenasia.
It is believed that many Grindr gang cases remain unreported due to the stigma and shame associated with the use of dating apps. Some victims who are not openly LGBTQI+ may also fear being “outed”.
Members of the LGBTQI+ community are advised to continue to exercise extreme caution when using dating apps in light of these incidents.