Johannesburg - The Glenvista, Mulbarton and Brackendowns communities have become the target of armed robbers they’ve dubbed the “silver Mercedes gang” – because of one of the cars they use.
Residents say the four-man gang are quick, ransacking homes and stealing items in just a few minutes.
A video of the house robbers was posted on the Glenvista Community Policing Forum Facebook page and by crime-fighting organisation eBlockwatch.
The video was taken from CCTV footage in Mulbarton about 30m away from the crime scene.
The video, shot on Saturday just after 5pm, shows the attack on the family of 15-year-old Anton*.
The gang is seen in the footage driving several times in the same street before parking next to the house targeted.
The footage shows two hijackers jumping out of their Mercedes, which is parked behind the family’s car in the driveway.
Handguns at the ready, they approach Anton and his friend. Seconds later, they lead the teenagers inside the yard.
A bare three seconds later, the footage shows Anton’s mother panicking and running with three children – all under the age of 10 – towards the backyard cottage.
Inside the house, the armed men are seen talking to the teenagers in an aggressive manner. About two minutes later, they walk up the stairs to the living room.
They leave the house shortly afterwards. In the driveway, they open the car and take a few items before driving off.
The family said the gang fled with three cellphones and their car keys.
During an interview with The Star on Monday afternoon, Anton said his classmates alleged the gang comes from Eden Park, a township east of Joburg.
“They alleged that one of them (hijackers) is named Derek. They also claimed that the gang had tried to hit other houses in their area,” the 15-year-old said.
His mother said the family would meet the police on Tuesday.
Anton’s mother said she was also blaming herself for not acting immediately when she spotted one of the men sitting on the pavement earlier in the day.
The community policing forum said the men carry handguns. One of them is described as being overweight with gold fillings in his mouth.
“He is often used as a pedestrian lookout who will scout the target that week and in the evening. They will drop him off close by before an attack, and the remaining three do the armed robbery,” the forum said.
They attack at sunset.
Once in a house, they tie people’s hands with cable ties and make off with valuables. The men often use the Mercedes, but also use an old hatchback and a red VW Golf.
The forum said the gang had been responsible for at least six robberies in the areas over the past two weeks.
Glenvista Community Policing Forum member Bruce Lennox said he knew of three incidents that had taken place in one week.
Andre Snyman, from eBlockwatch, encouraged victims of the gang to alert the organisation and send all videos to his Facebook page so that the incidents could be tied together.
After the robbery in Mulbarton, the robbers pulled off another robbery in Brackendowns.
After the video was posted on Facebook, several people said it looked like the same men who had robbed them.
Ronel Erlank Slabbert, who lives near the road where the robbery took place on Saturday, said the car looked the same as one that stopped outside her house to rob a car of its number plates.
The family had CCTV footage of the incident.
Clive da Silva, who said the silver Mercedes gang had also been active in Verwoerdpark, believed it was the same men who had robbed his family in Gillview.
Dena de Freitas said: “This looks like the same gang that hit us on Tuesday night. They were very well organised, in and out in eight minutes. Lucky no one physically harmed, just the mental trauma is hard to deal with.”
Jocelyn Moodley said the same men entered her property in Brackendowns and took her and her children into the house and robbed them at gunpoint.
Mondeor police station spokeswoman Constable Sibongile Mnguni said the gang appeared to be using different vehicles, and the police had launched an intensive operation because of the incidents.
* Not his real name