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KwaZulu-Natal - A South Coast mother who dialled the police emergency line for help when armed robbers invaded her home and threatened to kill her daughters is furious that the operator hung up on her.
Not only that, but when she called again after the robbery, the police allegedly failed to respond.
Help arrived only 20 minutes later, after police were again alerted to the robbery, this time by the Amanzimtoti Community Crime Prevention Organisation (CCPO).
She said the initial call to the 10111 line could have saved her family the more than 20 minutes of trauma they endured at the hands of the robbers.
“I used the one opportunity I had to call police and they failed us,” said the woman, who requested anonymity because she feared for her family’s safety.
“A police van was patrolling in the area at the time. If the call was handled properly, the robbers could have been arrested.”
She said the robbers cut through a wire fence and gained access into their eManzimtoti home at about 8.30pm on Friday.
Her husband was watching television while their two daughters, aged 20 and 15, were studying in their rooms.
“I was doing some work on the computer and my husband had let the dogs out,” she said, adding that the front door was slightly ajar for the dogs to come back inside.
“My husband dozed off on the couch. I looked up from the computer and saw a man standing in front of him with a gun.”
She said the robber shook her husband awake and warned him to keep quiet.
“I got the fright of my life. I was sitting less than 3m away. He just kept saying: ‘Shut up, shut up.’”
She said three other men appeared; one went into the kitchen and the other two into the bedrooms.
“One of them grabbed my younger daughter. But she broke free and ran towards the lounge.
“Another suspect then grabbed the elder one and threw her on to the couch.
“At that point I feared the worst,” she said. “The robbers told them to shut up again.”
All the robbers wore gloves and balaclavas.
The woman dialled the police emergency line from a phone next to the computer.
“I quietly took the phone of the hook and dialled. I expected the operator to listen to what I was saying. I spoke loudly,” she said.
“I told the girls to stay calm and do exactly what they told us to do. I told them if they kept quiet, they would not be harmed.”
She said she expected the operator to have been fully trained to handle that type of situation.
“But the call was cut. There was just a beep, beep noise. My efforts were wasted because the operator did not have the patience, care or expertise to realise it was a call for help.”
Minutes later the robbers turned their attention to her husband. “They wanted him to show them the safe.
“He showed them the safe in the bedroom and they stole two handguns and a shotgun.”
A silver getaway car with no registration plates was parked outside the house.
“They took our cellphones, laptops, a television and my handbag with cash,” she said.
As soon as the robbers left, she called 10111 again.
“I was fuming because they had hung up earlier. I told them to send a van out immediately. The operator just took the details and hung up.” The woman then called the CCPO.
“Less than five minutes later, two CCPO cars were in my driveway.
She said police arrived 15 minutes later, after the CCPO alerted them to the robbery.
“A police van had been patrolling the area at the time. The call centre had not alerted them to the robbery. It seems like 10111 is a waste of time.”
CCPO operations manager, Leon Jooné, said people often complained about the 10111 facility.
“The operators are not trained to handle situations like this,” he said. “They either hang up on people, the line is continuously engaged or it goes unanswered.”
Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said eManzimtoti police were investigating a case of house robbery.
He did not respond to the claims about the police emergency line.