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Cape Town - Southern suburbs residents have banded together to fight back against the violent crime wave which has gripped Rondebosch East, Crawford and Lansdowne in recent weeks.
A spate of burglaries, hijackings and attacks has stoked fear in the neighbourhoods, but also a sense of community, as residents unite under the banner of a neighbourhood watch called LanRoE.
There is support from more than 100 residents, linked via social media communication, who carry out nightly patrols.
LanRoE spokesman Adam Haupt said the neighbourhood watch has had great support from the police in Lansdowne, “and we have seen a very significant uptake of patrols over the past few weeks”.
Haupt said the group was under no illusion about patrols automatically solving their crime problem.
“Simple tasks such as sharing names, numbers, e-mails and stories have made a world of a difference… the neighbourhood watch is helping us to establish a level of social cohesion that probably has not been seen in this area for quite some time,” he said.
“The neighbourhood is exploring a number of options alongside its ongoing patrols and we are keen to keep talking to roleplayers in the public and private sectors.”
But, with the crime wave there is also paranoia.
People have reported “suspicious” vehicles that have turned out to be their neighbours’ cars, and unfamiliar figures on the streets find themselves being stopped and questioned at night.
Rondebosch East Civic Association chairman Christopher Lane
said crime had “raised awareness in the community. Blocks and street committees are talking to each other across the street”.
He said criminals were showing a strategy, monitoring residents’ activities to plan robberies.
Thetha Sithole of Lansdowne Community Police Forum said there had been increased visibility, patrols and joint operations between the police, security companies and the neighbourhood watches.
“Suspicious cars and pedestrians are monitored and sometimes even escorted out of the area.
“The community is taking full responsibility in terms of looking after the safety of all.
“Our streets are covered round the clock in terms of patrols,” he said.
Police were “fully aware” of crime trends in the province and had implemented plans to combat the surge, said spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut.
“We have noted with concern the recent incidents of house robbery and hijacking perpetrated in the southern suburbs, as well as similar crimes perpetrated in other areas of the province.
“Operational measures are executed throughout our province and all operational members are fully equipped with resources to deal with every situation at hand,” Traut said.
Pinelands has also faced problems with crime in recent months, with armed robbers jumping over high walls and storming into houses while residents are at home.
The depth of the crisis is evident from the Facebook page “Pinelands 531 – Crime and Safety Updates”, where lists of residents have recorded robberies that include criminals scaling walls, lifting security gates off their tracks, and having no fear about invading occupied homes.
The Pinelands police and Neighbourhood Watch recorded a spike in robberies and break-ins, as reported in Weekend Argus recently.
The city’s northern suburbs have not been spared either, with reports of a spree of shop and house robberies this month.
The MTN shop in the Pick n Pay Hypermarket in Brackenfell was robbed on Thursday by three armed men.
This follows a string of robberies of MTN shops around Cape Town, including those at the Zewenwacht and Soneike shopping centres, the Paddocks in Milnerton and one in Durbanville in recent months.
A superette in Frans Conradie Drive in Brackenfell was robbed on Tuesday night, and a shop assistant was assaulted.
Also on Tuesday night, an 83-year-old man was assaulted outside his home in Brackenfell and his vehicle was hijacked by three robbers.
On May 8, a gang of armed robbers was caught after a chase and a shootout with police in Kraaifontein.
The gang had robbed a supermarket but a police patrol in the area arrived on the scene as they were attempting to flee. Four of the robbers were arrested, three escaped and one was killed in the shootout.
Hout Bay residents and police say the shocking picture of crooked cops colluding with criminals who terrorise the suburb, as presented in the documentary Behind Paradise, is far from accurate.
According to crime-fighting authorities who spoke to sister newspaper the Cape Argus, crime in the suburb is down over 50 percent since the film was made last year, and Hout Bay police are at the top of their game.
Rashaad Barron’s story:
Barron picked at the stitches in his head as he recalled the brutal early-morning attack on him and his family.
At about 3am last Friday, he woke up to see a hooded intruder holding a knife to the throat of his wife, Jasmien.
“You don’t know what the hell to do. Do you scream or shout or jump?” she said.
“(The intruder) said: ‘Lady, I want your money, laptops and gold,’” Rashaad Barron said.
After he told the robber to take what he wanted and leave, the man picked up the couples’ cellphones, a portable PlayStation and R700.
They thought he would go once he had what he wanted, but the intruder asked Jasmien who was asleep in the other rooms.
Fearful for the lives of his three children, Barron dived at the man but the robber stabbed him in the head four times.
“I could feel how quickly he stabbed me… he stabbed and pulled the knife down,” he said, pointing to the long, deep gash in his head.
Rashaad pushed the attacker against the nearby sliding door, which Jasmien had pulled open, and the two men fell outside.
The couple’s dog grabbed the robber’s arm, pulling the knife away from Barron’s head.
“I couldn’t see him, the blood was running down from my head, so I let go,” Barron said.
The intruder tried to jump over the wall but was caught by the dog. Stabbing wildly at the dog, he escaped but was soon caught by a local security company.
Minutes later, police arrived and Barron was taken to hospital. He has 37 stitches in his head. His family is traumatised by the invasion.
“I’m freaked out… It was his intention to kill Rashaad. What if he comes back… I feel unsafe in my own house. It doesn’t matter if there are burglar bars on my roof, I won’t feel safe,” Jasmien said.
Hassan Brothers Superette:
Late on Wednesday night, the Hassan Brothers Superette in Lansdowne was bombed, blowing away the front door, damaging walls and breaking windows.
Attorney and co-owner of the shop Noorudien Hassan, who lives in a house on the property, said he had heard a loud bang.
He ran to the front door to see smoke coming from the entrance of the shop, then checked on his sleeping family, who were unharmed.
Within 15 minutes, police had arrived, with members of the canine unit, bomb squad and the Hawks.
“We have no idea why the cowards would do it… we hope justice will be done,” Hassan said.
Police have issued information on vehicles linked to hijackings and house robberies in the southern suburbs, in particular Rondebosch, Newlands and Claremont.
* A beige/cream Mini Cooper – with three armed men linked to house robberies and one case of street robbery – no registration details.
* A white C-class Mercedes-Benz – with false number plates – with three armed men, linked to hijackings and armed robberies in Newlands on May 7 and last Monday, outside the Spur in Main Road, at about 10pm.
The suspects were well dressed and part of a syndicate.
Police have asked people who have seen vehicles which match these descriptions, and which raise suspicion, to make a discreet note of the registration number and any other details and contact 10111 or Claremont police at 082 411 3217.