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Durban - Police in Chatsworth, sometimes criticised for not doing enough to fight crime, are basking in the glow of a hijack victim’s accolades, saying this was proof that new crime-fighting strategies are paying off.
DUT lecturer Viren Roopnarian, from the township’s Kharwastan suburb, hailed the Chatsworth Saps for apprehending the hijackers as well as the rapid recovery of his vehicle, describing their actions in a letter to the Daily News as “brilliant police work”.
He also heaped praise on the Bellair and Cato Manor police stations, as well as the Flying Squad and the dog unit.
“The manner in which they dealt with the situation and the co-ordination between the units was mind-blowing to say the least,” he said.
Roopnarian was accosted by two men in his driveway last month. One of the men pointed a gun to his head and asked for his wallet, keys and cellphone. His son was with him.
He said the whole incident happened very fast and was thankful that he had managed to get away.
As soon as the hijackers drove off with his car, Roopnarian dialled the 10111 emergency call centre, but panic set in when he soon realised that his daughter, who had been inside the house when the incident unfolded, was missing.
In less than five minutes, Captain Isaac Cele of the Chatsworth Saps arrived.
“I told him that my daughter was missing and he immediately alerted two patrol vehicles in the vicinity,” he said.
“As we spoke a voice over the police radio said that my car had been spotted in Bellair. Captain Cele immediately told police not to shoot as my daughter was in the car.”
However, Roopnarian later learnt that his daughter was not in the car; she had locked herself in the back yard when she noticed the commotion in the driveway, and had gone to the neighbour’s house for help.
Roopnarian’s vehicle was recovered within 40 minutes.
“I was very impressed by the attitude of the police. The positive energy when the suspects were apprehended and the camaraderie displayed by the officers blew me away…,” he said.
“Since the incident police have made stops at our house to find out how we’re doing. Captain Isaac arranged for trauma counselling for my family.
“Their immediate response and handling of the situation is most worthy of commendation.”
The quick recovery of his vehicle was astounding for Roopnarian, but for the Chatsworth SAPS, who have recovered vehicles in the past in half the time, it was all in a day’s work.
According to the latest crime statistics, hijackings in the Chatsworth area have been on a general decline since 2009.
Statistics for 2008/2009 show that the station recorded 239 incidents. This dropped to 191 the next reporting year and during 2010/2011, 110 cases were reported. The most recent statistics however show a slight increase with 120 cases.
Acting station commander Colonel Trevor Small, who joined the Chatsworth Saps in June last year, said the drop in incidents could be credited to “active citizenship”.
Small was the operation commander on duty on the evening that Roopnarian’s car was hijacked. As soon as the vehicle was spotted, a chase ensued, he said.
“Prior to the operation, we realised Kharwastan was a hot spot (for hijackings) so we alerted neighbouring stations to be on alert,” Small said, explaining that, during that period, three other Mercedes-Benz cars were hijacked from the suburb.
He said the vehicle was recovered after a Cato Manor resident noticed a crowd gathered around a car and was able to spot two suspects.
Community police forums (CPFs) and other organisations in the area also play an important role in fighting crime, Small said.
He said many tip-offs came from residents via a messaging network on Blackberry Messenger which gives police instant information.
“We have a good relationship and constant communication with CPFs and other forums with whom we exchange ideas and information regularly,” he said.
Another ingredient for their success, Small said, was the relationship between the senior managers and the officers.
“We are on the ground with our members. We don’t sit in our offices,” he said.
“Management is going out and doing it with the members. If a manager is with you, you generally give of your best.”
Small said the energy and camaraderie among members of the station was as a result of their passion for the prevention of crime.
“We work so hard to prevent it that when it happens we kick ourselves because we give of our best,” he said. “Often people say ‘thank you’, but for Mr Roopnarian to write a letter, I wasn’t expecting it. It really is good for us.”