Cape Town - The dreaded Crowbar Gang was caught on camera when it’s members struck in Rondebosch East earlier this month, prompting fears among residents that the incident, along with a second in neighbouring Crawford, could signal the start of a fresh wave of robberies in the area.
In May, several crowbar-style break-ins and robberies were reported in Rondebosch East, Crawford and Lansdowne, and residents responded by boosting their home security.
Now, after a breather of more than two months, they appear to be back again – and local security company, Shaza Security Services, is not taking any chances.
Shaza head Sharief Ismail has alerted the community via Whatsapp and Facebook, and has made announcements at the local mosque. He has also increased patrols and appealed for community volunteers to come forward to help.
“(One incident) sends a shiver through the community and anyone who hears about it,” Ismail told Weekend Argus this week.
Police confirmed that two crowbar-style break-ins were reported. The first took place in Crawford last Friday.
No one was home at the time the four men, driving a “showroom-style” black BMW with tinted windows, arrived at the house, Ismail said.
A neighbour, who declined to be identified, said he was outside his house when he noticed a group of men quickly getting into a black BMW and fleeing.
He noticed that one of the men had an “instrument” in his hand, which may have been a crowbar.
“It all happened so quickly,” he recalled.
Ismail said that when he visited the scene he saw marks at the front door. The men had succeeded in breaking through the security gate.
“That was a solid gate, but they broke it because a crowbar can do that,” he said.
Police spokesman, Captain FC van Wyk confirmed the Crawford and Rondebosch East incidents. He said the front door of the Carwford house had been damaged and that items to value of R15 000 were taken.
“The neighbours saw a black BMW leaving the premises. A case of housebreaking and theft was opened for investigation,” he said.
Shaza immediately alerted its clients and also put out a warning on the company’s Facebook page.
The second incident took place the following evening, when an E90-shape dark-coloured BMW stopped at a house in Smuts Road, Rondebosch East and rang the bell. When someone answered, the men claimed to be looking for a “Mr Allie” before they left, sources said.
About five minutes later, a house located about 1.5km away was hit and, again the same men in the dark-coloured BMW were captured on camera.
The men were brazen enough to target a house located just a stone’s throw away from armed response company Sniper Security.
First the men rang the doorbell and, when they were satisfied that no one was home, they struck, using a crowbar to prise open the front door, undeterred by the security cameras
The entire process took less than three minutes and 40 seconds.
LanRoE neighbourhood watch chairman Adam Fisher said the men appeared to be targeting houses with armed alarm systems.
Some alarm systems have tiny blue lights – usually located above garage doors – which illuminate when the system is armed.
The gang appeared to be targeting houses with illuminated blue lights that Saturday and, in both incidents, rang the doorbell to check whether anyone was home.
But Ismail said that, in his experience, it made no difference whether the alarm system was armed or not.
He recommended that residents install outside sensors or beams which would trigger the alarm well before the intruders got to the front door.
Captain van Wyk appealed to anyone with information to contact detectives at Lansdowne Police Station at 021 700 9000 or 082 476 2804, or to call Crime Stop on 08600 10111.
IT TOOK JUST UNDER FOUR MINUTES
For 20 years the couple lived happily in Rondebosch East, just a stone’s throw from the local security company.
So proud was the husband – the couple do not want to be named because they fear retribution – of the fact he hadn’t fallen prey to criminals for the past two decades that he spoke to a potential newcomer to the area just last Saturday morning about how safe he felt.
But hours later their home was hit by the infamous Crowbar Gang.
“We were always lucky in the 20 years we are here,” the wife said. That was until they and their daughter left to attend a family function out of town on Saturday.
The wife’s phone was in her handbag during the event, so when the armed response company attempted to alert her that their alarm had been activated, she did not hear it ring.
Her husband could also not be reached because he was at prayers at the mosque.
When they finally realised that Sniper Security had tried to reach them, they called a neighbour to check on their home, and began heading back.
The neighbour confirmed that the house had been broken into.
This week the family were still shaken. Footage of the incident caught on camera showed how the men drove past the house in a dark-coloured BMW, then reversed and stopped, before driving off again.
“They were probably looking for targets and saw the blue light (indicating that the alarm system was on). This is just what I am thinking,” the husband said.
When they returned, one of the men, dressed in a pink T-shirt, dark pants and a peaked cap, rang the bell continuously for a few minutes.
“They probably wanted to make sure no one was sleeping inside,” he said.
It was only when they were sure that no one was home that they struck.
It took a second for the men to open the security gate.
At one stage, two cars passed the house, prompting the men to lie flat on the front lawn.
When the coast was clear, they used a crowbar to prise open the wooden front door, breaking part of the frame.
At 7.38pm the alarm went off and three of the men entered the house, two heading straight for the main bedroom.
The footage showed that it took 49 seconds for one of the men to get the family’s
50-inch television out of the TV room.
He left it in the garden before returning to call his two accomplices.
A fourth man waited in the BMW.
As they left, one of the men could be seen carrying a drawer filled with valuables.
The entire process took three minutes and 40 seconds.
Two seconds after the men drove off, a Sniper Security patrol van arrived.
The wife said: “The shock is setting in now.”
Many friends and family members had called to offer support, and they hoped to use their experience positively by looking at steps the entire community could take to ensure their safety.
“It’s not just affecting one family. It’s the entire surroundings,” she said.
The couple were especially grateful for the support received from local neighbourhood watch LanRoE.