Cape Town - A private security company has lifted the lid on a motor vehicle and housebreaking syndicate being operated by car guards.
Close to 10 car guards have been arrested in the popular “Sunrise Circle and Surfer’s Corner” in Muizenberg after eagle-eyed security company Mountain Security Services exposed them.
The company has indicated that 70% of its arrests since the start of September were linked to car guards operating in the Muizenberg jurisdiction, many of whom were homeless.
In one incident, a car guard wearing his reflective bib was caught red-handed inside the garage of one of his victims while attempting to steal a vehicle.
Operational manager Charlien Beukman said they worked hand-in-hand with police, Muizenberg’s Improvement District, neighbourhood watches and the Muizenberg Community Policing Forum.
Beukman and her team began noticing a trend and managed to make seven arrests in total, all of whom were car guards. She is now appealing to Social Development to find these car guards alternative accommodation, stating that they are forced to live a life of crime to support their livelihood.
Beukman explained that during the first arrest, teams caught the thieves on CCTV.
“A taxi was detected by our CCTV Team, driving around in Muizenberg, ‘casing vehicles’,” she said. “Our units were notified and confronted the three thieves, who got out of the taxi and opened a vehicle.
“When confronted, the suspects fled the scene, two were arrested and one got away.
“The suspects were taken to Muizenberg police station and were residing in Khayelitsha.
“We hope that police will be able to link these suspects to the spate of motor vehicle thefts that have been taking place recently, in the Muizenberg police precinct.”
Beukman said in another incident two suspects were arrested in Royal Road while forcing a vehicle’s lock open. Both were caught with tools and equipment used to break into vehicles.
“One of the suspects is known to us as Damian. It’s important to note that he is also a bin picker who operates in the Lakeside area, as well as Kalk Bay, St James and Muizenberg.”
In the third incident, a resident had stopped three suspects walking along the railway line after a car alarm had gone off. It was discovered that a VW Polo had been broken into and the wheels of the vehicle removed.
Beukman said there has been a pattern since August.
“There has been a trend and even the suspect caught wearing the reflector bib is a repeat offender for car-related break-ins and housebreaking, but he is often granted bail of R500.
“Since the end of August, we have noticed an increase and that it is a syndicate. We have made seven arrests. I would say about 70% of the arrests are car guards and most of them are operating in Muizenberg, like at Surfer’s Corner.
“They have gained the customer’s trust and some (motorists) leave their keys with them because they are surfers and then they would wait for their middleman to arrive.”
Beukman added that social development was approached to assist with alternative accommodation: “These people are homeless and we are not chasing them away, we know that they will need a place to stay. That is why we want to work with the authorities.”
Heide Goodman of the Muizenberg Community Policing Forum said they were working towards keeping the streets free of car thieves.
“The number of vehicles stolen from the streets of Muizenberg remains a concern for the Muizenberg CPF,” she said.
“We are grateful that some of these vehicles were recovered due to the good work of our police members, law enforcement officers, security service providers and members of the neighbourhood watches.
“With the festive season approaching and the expectation that many people will visit the beachfront, patrolling of the area will be stepped up.”
Social Development MEC Sharna Fernandez’s spokesperson, Monique Mortlock-Malgas, said: “The Western Cape Department of Social Development is aware of the issue. Referrals have been made for homeless individuals to go to a shelter, but no person can be forced into a shelter.
“The department can assist the security company with contact details of shelters near Fish Hoek.”
Police were approached for comment on the arrests, but did not respond by the time of going to print.