Drivers warned of 'carjamming' thefts

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carj amming INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS A security camera shows a robber getting into the car. Frame Grab: Bongiwe Mchunu

A group of men are terrorising Johannesburg drivers. They are brazen, operate in gangs and have what may be thought a new modus operandi: “car jamming”.

In CCTV footage seen on Wednesday, the driver of a car and his family are seen climbing out of their car, and a robber who is lurking a few metres away touches the door slowly to ensure it does not lock.

The driver uses a remote control to lock his car, but doesn't notice that one of the doors is not locked.

Seconds later, the robber and his friend return to the car, open the door and help themselves to the valuables in the vehicle.

The robbers quickly run away, not knowing they have been caught on camera.

A suspect was arrested later.

car jam 2 The owner had locked it remotely a few seconds earlier. Frame Grab: Bongiwe Mchunu INLSA

The brazen incident, which took place in Yeoville just after 1pm, as people were going about their daily business, was recorded on October 18.

Johannesburg metro police spokesman chief superintendent Wayne Minnaar said investigations were intensified after they had received complaints about smash-and-grabs in the CBD last Friday. He said the complaints were also about theft from vehicles and car-jamming gangs.

Minnaar said Smit Street in Braamfontein near the M1 South had been highlighted as a hotspot for smash-and-grabs, as had Joe Slovo Drive, Abel Road in Hillbrow and the Selby area near Simmonds Street.

The CCTV surveillance cameras are located in a Johannesburg city centre office. Once a specialist watching the cameras notices suspicious-looking people, he or she alerts metro police officers who are in the area.

“Once we have spotted the robbers, we follow the suspects using the track-and-trace device in the cameras,” said a specialist.

The intensified investigations have led to the arrests of seven suspects after they had been caught on CCTV in the past few days.

car jam 3 But he didn't realise the suspect had partly opened the rear door as he parked, so the central locking wouldn't work. Frame Grab: Bongiwe Mchunu INLSA

In one robbery incident under the bridge at Selby, three men grab a driver who has his window open and rob him of his belongings. They scatter shortly thereafter and take off their jerseys so that they are not easily identified.

They put their tops in a plastic bag and make off with their loot.

As they approach Market Street, two metro officers give chase and arrest them.

In another incident at the Carlton Centre, two metro police officials pose as tourists at the corner of Von Wielligh and Commissioner streets.

As they are looking at the wares displayed by hawkers, two men pounce on them and try to rob them. But the officers grab the two men, handcuff them and bundle them into the back of a van.

Minnaar urged people to be vigilant as the festive season draws closer.

“These incidents of mugging and smash-and-grabs are rife during this period,” he said.

Minnaar said the car jammers open car doors in a manner that a driver may not notice.

“This is the modus operandi of the car jammers. Once the driver locks the car, the central locking won't work because one of the doors is open.

“We urge motorists to double-check when parking their cars and make sure all the doors are closed,” he said.

Between April 2011 and March this year, the Johannesburg Central police station recorded 738 incidents of theft out of or from motor vehicles, while the Hillbrow police station registered 821 such incidents.

Smash-and-grab incidents are difficult to pinpoint as there is no particular category for this crime in the police's statistics. - The Star

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