Crowbar gangs back
The areas targeted include Mitchells Plain, Lentegeur, Grassy Park, Fairways, Ottery and Lansdowne.
These areas fall under the Mitchells Plain Police cluster.
Police believed a previous crowbar burglary spree in Cape Town’s suburbs had been bought to an end in 2016, when members of a gang were nabbed after a high-speed chase which ended in an accident.
Now a fresh surge of burglaries has led community policing forums and neighbourhood watches to believe other thieves are using a similar break-in method.
Rafique Foflonker, chairperson of the Lansdowne community policing forum (CPF) and spokesperson for the Mitchell’s Plain CPF Cluster, said all areas in the cluster had seen a surge in burglaries by thieves using crowbars.
But there seemed to be a higher concentration in certain police precincts which include parts of Mitchells Plain, Grassy Park, Lentegeur and Lansdowne.
He said there had been a general increase in burglaries after the mid-term and final-term school holidays.
While the burglars’ method varied, they frequently use a crowbar or pry bar to open a weak security gate or door.
“There are at least three or four perpetrators working together. One of them is the designated driver and will remain in or near the vehicle to facilitate a quick getaway,” Foflonker said.
He added that they targeted TVs, laptops, cellphones and any item of value that could be grabbed in under two minutes
He said there was an ongoing effort to contain criminal activity in the various areas, but specific operations could not be made public.
Foflonker added that residents needed to join and support local neighbourhood groups to sustain patrols during the day.
“Currently in some of the affected areas, perhaps less than 5% of the households participate in neighbourhood watch.
“We all need to take responsibility for our collective safety. The SAPS and other policing agencies cannot be everywhere all the time.”
Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said although they were not allowed to disclose crime statistics due to a national moratorium, “there is no indication that an increase in housebreaking cases is experienced in the mentioned areas”.
“A crowbar is used as an implement in some of the cases to gain access to a residence and the perpetrators are then labelled as members of a crowbar gang.”
In spite of police stating there had been no increase, a Fairways resident who asked not to be named for safety reasons, said over the festive season there had been at least four break-ins by burglars using crowbars per week in his area.
The person said a family member had witnessed an incident in progress a few weeks ago at a neighbour’s house and activated their own alarm, which scared off the group before they could enter.
Another Grassy Park resident said his house had been burgled earlier this week. His neighbour called him to warn him at 1.30pm.
“When I got home I saw the gate had been forcefully ripped off the wall and the door had also been forced open... the frame had actually cracked, which gave them enough play to get it open.”
They took the TV, PlayStation, Xbox and DStv remote.
The neighbours told him that they had seen a car reverse into the driveway and three men enter the house.
On the day the Weekend Argus spoke to the owner, he said the police had called him to say there had been six other incidents on the same day in the surrounding areas.
Grassy Park CPF chairperson Fuad Titus said the burglars were a major concern in the Grassy Park police precinct.
“It is happening from Grassy Park, right over to Pelican Park and into Fairways and Ottery.”
He said criminals using the same methods had been caught in the act at a home in Grassy Park in the early hours of Thursday and arrested.
“We know there is not one group. There are copycats in the area. At the moment it is so bad, they have been able to strike at a number of venues in one day.”
He said they struck on specific days during specific times.
He encouraged residents to ensure their homes were secure.
“You should have a boundary fence with a good gate.They don’t want to be seen breaking down a gate.
“Have a dog on the premises that will make a noise. They are very wary of this. They don’t want to draw attention.”
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said in the Western Cape more than 46 000 cases of residential burglaries had been reported to the police in the previous financial year.
“With regard to the operations of the alleged crowbar gang, its copycats and those intent on wreaking havoc in communities, I have received similar complaints from the public and have in the past escalated the information for the urgent attention and response from the provincial commissioners.”
He said the incident had occurred in broad daylight.
“In one of the avenues they went into a house during mosque time. They operate in two cars, one will be the spotter and the other will be the one that actually does it.”
He said in Crawford, Rondebosch East and Plumstead there had been incidents where people were at home when their houses were burgled.
A Grassy Park resident who has been living in the area for 47 years said up until two weeks ago when burglars broke into her house, they had never had a burglary.
The incident took place just after noon and, according to CCTV footage, the culprits were in and out of the house within five minutes.
The owner said when her son came home he noticed his home had been burgled.
“He saw through the window that the TV was taken and that the door was opened. He could immediately tell that they used a crowbar to get into the house.”
The CCTV footage shows three men at the door, one of whom rang the bell of the house and then entered the house when nobody answered.
“I am concerned that they will come back. I don’t feel safe in my home.”
She said while the family had been standing outside the house after the incident, they heard houses in Fairways and Lotus River had also been broken into.