Durban - Another Durban neighbourhood is mobilising against violent crime.

What surprises Berea resident David Birch, is that a balaclava-clad gang, wielding automatic weapons in a luxury car should even consider his street, Cherry Avenue, on the inland-facing slope of the suburb, a target.

“With a vehicle like that (BMW X5), you would expect they would be after bigger prizes than this road can offer.”

They took laptops, jewellery, flat-screen televisions, and cellphones, within five minutes of the alarm going off, then slipped away before help arrived.

This, only a week after a hijacking at the other end of the road in which an AK-47 was also brandished.

Now, the community will be getting together to discuss how to improve security.

“It’s expensive. If you want 24-hour guards who are paid decently, it will cost each house between R600 and R1 000 a month to have that kind of service,” said Birch.

“If all the neighbours come together, a lot can be achieved.”

One of the options is to close off the street, which was originally a farm access road, and therefore part of the properties along it. At present, it leads into a neighbouring light industrial area but is closed to vehicle traffic with a barrier.

He said that some former neighbours have already abandoned the area and “legged it to Durban North and uMhlanga”.

“But a lot of people who live here don’t want to abandon the place.”

Patches of greenery around them are no help. “Municipal workers were even threatened when going in there to cut.”

Monday evening’s incident saw one of the residents, who did not wish to be named, followed into his house by eight armed men, three of them wearing balaclavas, after he returned from a garage where he drew cash at an ATM.

“I screamed so loud my neighbour heard me and called the security company,” he said.

“This guy had me on the ground, pushed me and asked – where is your gun? Where is the safe?

“I told him I did not have these.”

His mother-in-law was also held up.

Meanwhile, his pregnant wife was in a nearby bathroom, bathing their two-year-old.

“I told my mother-in-law – don’t look at them. Give them what they want.”

The robbers then stripped flat-screen televisions from the walls and added cellphones and bank cards to their loot, as well as the keys to a Mercedes-Benz, which they made off with.

His neighbour, who also did not wish to be named, said he heard him scream. He saw the robbers loading what they had stolen into a NU-registered black BMW X5.

“They were well-dressed,” he said.

Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane said a case of house robbery was being investigated by Mayville police.