Durban - Brazen burglars made off with computers, cellphones and torches – from the offices of the Berea police detective branch on Sunday.
After gathering their goods, including bulletproof vests and pepper spray, the two men then took the keys for a police van, loaded their booty, and used it as the getaway vehicle.
The thieves, aged 18 and 39, offloaded the contents at a house in Ndwedwe, then dumped the van at King Shaka International Airport.
But their attempts to cover their tracks came to nought when police checked with the vehicle’s tracking company and the GPS co-ordinates led them to a house in Ndwedwe where, hours after the break-in, the pair were arrested and all the stolen items recovered.
Despite the quick police reaction, the boldness of the crime has left police and criminologists amazed at the disrespect for the law.
Provincial police spokesman, Captain Khephu Ndlovu, said the burglars broke into the offices in a converted house in Lambert Road at 1am on Sunday. The building is clearly signposted.
“The men then found a key for a state bakkie and loaded the stolen goods,” he said.
Ndlovu said when police arrived at work they realised what had happened, contacted their tracking company and checked the GPS coordinates for the stolen bakkie.
“From there police determined that the car had first been driven to Ndwedwe and later to the airport. They went to the house in Ndwedwe and on arrival found the two suspects there,” he said.
Ndlovu said that the pair showed police where the stolen computers and other goods were.
The men were arrested and the bakkie was collected from the airport parking lot. The two were charged with house and business robbery and are expected to appear before a Durban magistrate on Tuesday.
Reacting to the targeting of police offices by criminals, Dr Nirmala Gopal, senior lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Department of Criminology, said it was not just criminals that showed a lack of respect for police, but also civil society.
She said a partial contributing factor was poor service delivery from the police.
“People no longer view the police as people who can protect society. It is not surprising that police stations are being targeted,” Gopal said.
Unisa criminologist, Rudolf Zinn, said it was a serious concern that the criminals were able to get into the police offices and had knowledge of where the items they were looking for were kept.
He said it was also a worrying issue that the criminals were able to break into the offices and make it out without being caught.
“It shows that they have very little fear of the police and they disrespect the police because they feel they are ineffective and unable to catch them,” Zinn said.
He said criminology studies had shown that criminals first measured the risk of being caught before committing a crime. “If they feel they will not be caught, they go ahead and commit the crime,” Zinn said.
However, Institute of Security Studies researcher, Dr Hamabziriti Pamukamoyo, said this was an isolated incident and should not reflect the attitude of society towards police.