Durban - An armed syndicate using a rented car to terrorise and rob service stations in the Durban area was finally brought down by police and private security in the early hours of Thursday morning.
The four-man syndicate had been under investigation by a private security company following a string of robberies at 24 petrol stations. They were tracked down and arrested after their latest robbery at a petrol station in Umgeni Road late on Wednesday night.
Enforce Security said that their operation which led to the arrest began around 10pm on Wednesday, shortly after the Umgeni Road garage had been robbed.
“The arrest of the first three suspects took place just before 1am and about three hours later, the fourth was also arrested,” said the company in a statement.
The suspects, in their early- to mid-20s live in uMlazi. Most of their crimes involved holding up and robbing garages and their staff of cash from the tills, cellphones and cigarettes.
Their most recent robberies were at the Sasol garage in Umgeni Road and a petrol station in Hillcrest last week.
Enforce managing director Derek Lategan said the men would take, on average, between R2 000 and R10 000 in cash during a robbery, but did not attempt to steal from the safes.
“They were basically looking for quick and easy ways to get the money.”
He said the suspects had been running rampant through the greater Durban area in recent weeks, becoming increasingly agitated and aggressive, and terrorising - although not injuring - their victims at gunpoint.
It was the fact that they used the same rented car every time they committed a robbery that allowed the security company to get on their trail.
“Our investigator traced it (the vehicle) to a car rental company in Durban which reported to have sold the vehicle to someone else,” said Lategan.
They then tracked down the new owner, although the vehicle had not yet been registered in his name.
The owner has a car rental company, but on a small scale, in Umlazi, and he identified the suspects as the same men who had hired the car from him.” The vehicle owner helped track the car via GPS.
An Enforce vehicle and four SAPS vehicles tracked the rental car to the M4 South freeway and gave chase.
The suspects collided with another vehicle near the Quality Street turn-off, after which they were surrounded and arrested. They led the officers to their accomplice at his home in Umlazi, where he was arrested at about 4am on Thursday.
“It was a great team effort in tracking these men down, even though it took our investigators and the SAPS all over south Durban.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Thulani Zwane confirmed that four men had been arrested in connection with a string of robberies.