If you let your long locs flow loosely on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa, you might become the target of a hair robbery. Cut-and-run hair thefts have emerged in the city because of a demand for locs on the black market where locs can sell from $200 to $2,000 rand depending on length.
The demands stems from the new popular technique, crocheting, where stylists attach human hair pieces to shorter hair to create instantly long locs. Since the process is fairly new, there aren’t enough human hair locs to go around, leading people to obtain hair illegally.
Andile Khumalo, owner of a Johannesburg salon said he’s in constant fear of becoming the victim of hair theft:
“I’m even afraid of walking through town with my locks loose especially at night. I make sure I cover my head. It is scary because you never know what they will use to cut your hair — these people are ruthless.”
The thieves use knives or broken glass to cut people’s locs or shave their head completely, as was the case during the brutal attack of Zimbabwean, Mutsa Madonko.
Police are calling on witnesses and victims to report cut-and-run cases and storeowners are also joining the good fight by refusing to accept stolen hair.
Jabu Stone, who owns a salon in South Africa, told BBC:
“My policy is simple: If you want to sell hair to me you must produce a photograph of yourself with dreadlocks to prove that they were yours or you come into any of my salons and we cut it off ourselves.”
The worst outcome of the robberies, however, is that people are now scared to grow locs because they are such a coveted commodity. Jack Maseko, who spent three years growing locs that were cut off during a robbery, says:
“I’m afraid to have dreadlocks, I’m afraid that they are going to cut them again. “My friends have warned me not grow them, next time they might kill me.”