Callous criminals have decided to use the 21-day lockdown as an opportunity to target businesses that have stopped operating. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)
Callous criminals have decided to use the 21-day lockdown as an opportunity to target businesses that have stopped operating. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency (ANA)

Criminals taking advantage of lockdown to target Long Street businesses

By Marvin Charles Time of article published Apr 2, 2020

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Cape Town - Callous criminals have decided to use the 21-day lockdown as an opportunity to target businesses that have stopped operating.

More than 16 suspects have been arrested in the CBD since the weekend for allegedly breaking into businesses such as Bob’s Bar, Harrington’s and other closed businesses in Long Street.

Under the Covid-19 induced lockdown non essential business are not allowed to operate.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said the country now had 1380 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) safety and security manager Mo Hendricks said the crimes were sporadic and opportunistic, and occurred in various precincts throughout the CBD.

In the biggest arrest, which took place on Sunday, seven suspects were held for breaking into Lily’s Baby Shop on the corner of Plein and Strand streets, near Cape Town station.

Three suspects were also arrested on Sunday for breaking into Revelas Fisheries in Long Street, with another two arrested for a house break-in on the corner of Buitengracht and Wale streets.

“The break-ins committed during the first three days of lockdown were opportunists who tried to take advantage of the situation, but the CCID immediately shut down their windows of opportunity,” Hendricks said.

“CCID public safety officers managed to catch 14 suspects who, with the assistance of the SAPS, were arrested over this three-day period. Since then, crime has all but ground to a halt in the CBD.”

Bob’s Bar was also hit on Saturday but the officers managed to apprehend two suspects.

Owner Andy Heynes said: “The incident happened at 7pm on Saturday. They broke into the smoking section and stole over R10000 of alcohol.

“It’s hard, especially in a time where our business is closed and there is no income coming in.”

Heynes said that the lockdown had given criminals a prime time to go on the rampage. “The area is filled with students. Everyone is going to be desperate, people don’t have income.

“The room is open wide for people to take the opportunity to steal and sell whatever they can find,” he said.

The crackdown follows similar steps taken in Spain, Italy and France, where public lockdowns have been implemented to curb the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said: “Police are fully focused on business break-ins and arrested a total of 15 suspects on four cases of business breaking so far. The SAPS will continue with crime-prevention initiatives in the CBD during this period of the lockdown.”

CCID chief executive Tasso Evangelino said: “The CCID is always concerned about crime in the CBD as we take it very seriously, especially at a time when not only our city, but our country is facing a global pandemic that will have far-reaching consequences. As far as crime in the CBD during this time (is concerned), we are taking a zero-tolerance approach.”

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said: “We’re seeing more and more criminals taking advantage of this time and this is why we are calling for regulations to be toughened up.

“It’s easy for anyone to say they are going to the shop when in fact they are planning to do something else. We can anticipate this to continue because police are distracted and neighbourhood watches aren’t in operation.

“It’s not only businesses that are experiencing this. I have received calls of industrial properties that have been left vacant that have also experienced robberies,” said Smith.

@MarvinCharles17

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Cape Argus

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