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Durban - Robbers are using a range of tactics, including pepper spray, poisoned food and sedatives, to get into secured properties, a security expert has warned.
In the latest incident, a Clare Estate family have fled their home after robbers slit the throat of their 18-year-old German shepherd dog and made off with hundreds of rand worth of copper pipes.
And last week, during a home robbery in Glen Anil, a dog was pepper-sprayed until it passed out.
Droupat Soni, 73, who lives with his family in a house on the grounds of a Clare Road hall, where he works as a caretaker, said they had had two robberies in the past month.
On Wednesday, the family dog Rani was drugged, sprayed with insecticide and killed by robbers who slit its throat.
Private investigator Brad Nathanson appealed to people to keep their pets indoors.
“Criminals are not afraid of humans. They are not going to fear animals,” he said yesterday.
“It is a reality that dogs are being targeted.”
Nathanson said the use of pepper spray, food mixed with rat poison, and electric shocks, was becoming a trend, as was stabbing and killing dogs.
“House robberies are the easiest way of getting the most amount of goods in the shortest possible time,” he said. “The robbers will stop at nothing to get in.”
Soni said robbers got into their house three weeks ago and stole more than R250 000 worth of jewellery, electronic equipment, cellphones and household goods.
“They cleaned us out,” he said. “We are not insured. I thank God my wife and daughter were not harmed.”
Early on Wednesday he heard strange noises outside.
“There was banging and it sounded like someone was working on the plumbing. I armed myself with my gun and went outside.
“Two guys were removing all the copper pipes around the hall and my house.”
Soni said he was stunned when he saw his dog lying dead on the front lawn.
“It was a horrific sight. His throat had been slit from end to end. It was gruesome.”
He fired three warning shots to deter the robbers.
“They were not afraid. They gathered all the pipes and fled. They had also broken into my car and stole the radio and all my tools from the boot,” he said.
“If I did not wake up, they would have tried to get into my house again.”
He said more than five homes on his street had been broken into in the past week.
The spokesman for the Sydenham community policing forum, Satish Dhupelia, said house break-ins and robberies appeared to be on the increase.
“But what is of concern is the violence and loss of life during the robberies,” he said.
Dhupelia said evidence had come to light that criminals were paying employees of residents for information to assist them in the robberies.
“They are told where items are stored, whether there are any firearms, where people sleep and how many people are in the house.”
He cautioned people to be vigilant when employing casual labour.
“Once they (labourers) enter your premises, they are able to spot security flaws and observe your movements,” he said.
Dhupelia said the forum was calling for increased resources at police stations, more tactical response teams, patrols and visibility.
“If necessary, use the military to patrol and enforce safety of the citizens of this country,” he said.
“It is time that the tactics employed to ensure our safety change from… reactive to proactive.”
Police spokesman Colonel Vincent Mdunge said they had heard of incidents in which pets were targeted by robbers.
“For now it is not a significant trend. But we will be monitoring and investigating methods criminals are using to subdue and even kill animals,” he said.
Mdunge denied that house robberies were on the increase in KwaZulu-Natal, saying there had in fact been a “tremendous decline” in recent months.