Durban - The peace and quiet of the Upper Highway community of Winston Park and Gillitts was broken by the loud bangs of crackers - planted in post boxes - which exploded on residents’ perfectly manicured lawns.
For weeks after Diwali and Guy Fawkes, residents were left reeling after a series of bangs ripped through the tranquillity of their tree-lined neighbourhoods.
The “bombings” came to an end earlier this month when police swooped on the home of a 17-year-old Port Shepstone boy.
The teenager appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court on December 5.
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said the teenager faced charges of malicious damage to property.
Hillcrest police are investigating.
Brian Jones, founder of SA Can, a community crime prevent organisation, said more than 20 post boxes had been blown up since last month, resulting in losses in excess of R20 000.
He said initially residents believed the bombings were random incidents that would subside after Guy Fawkes.
“But they didn’t. They just went on and on. Initially we would have one a week but then we started having one or two in one night,” he said.
Jones said the culprits behind the bombings had put up to three “big bang” fireworks into random postboxes in the neighbourhood before fleeing. Most of the incidents occurred at night.
“When the damage went towards the R15 000 to R20 000 range the community decided enough was enough,” he said.
“The Winston Park neighbourhood watch put up a R1 000 reward and we at SA Can and SA Guardian also put up a R3 500 reward for information and sent out SMSes to 5 000 community members.
“After sending out our SMSes we got our first anonymous tip the next day. The person gave us a description of a vehicle which we were able to trace to a house in Port Shepstone where the teenager was arrested.”
The teenager had been visiting relatives and friends in the Upper Highway area when he allegedly blew up the post boxes.
Jones described the teenager as a straight A pupil and keen sportsman.
“He was just being mischievous and did not know the repercussions (of) his actions.”
He said police believed the teenager was not the only person involved in the explosions.
Jones said news of the bombings may have been broadcast on social media.
“We suspect there were copycat bombings because the juvenile can prove that he was in Port Shepstone when some of these incidents happened.
“However, since the arrests were made - and this is because this, too, went viral on Facebook - the bombings have come to a complete stop,” he said.
Jones said the community had no choice but to treat petty crimes like this with the same focus they would tackle serious crime.
“We made a commitment that although it seemed to be petty crime we were going to go the full hog knowing full well that the perpetrators were likely to be children.
“If we are going to involve the police, then the community had to stand by it.”