File photo: Antoine de Ras / Independent Media.
Johannesburg - A motorist was forced to drive through red traffic lights to escape the aggressive conduct of a “window washer”, who was armed with petrol and matches.

The Greenstone resident said the incident took place at the Modderfontein N3 south off-ramp on Saturday night.

Tim Nephews said he was driving home just before 10pm when a man approached him and started trying to wash his windows.

“I told him to stop, but he continued anyway.

“I got out of my car to again tell him to stop and he pulled out a bottle filled with petrol and a box of matches and threatened to set me on fire. He was shouting at me, calling me a ‘white bastard’. I took the threat seriously, got back into my car and drove through the red traffic lights,” he said.

He called 10111, reported the matter and was given a reference number.

Oliver Manickum, head of the Greenstone Crime Forum said the washers were a huge problem in the area, especially around the Van Riebeek Avenue/Modderfontein area.

“We have private security companies that chase them away from intersections, but they quickly return after the patrol vehicles have left. The situation is partially under control during the day, but they strike motorists at night,” he said.

There were many reported incidents of them rocking cars and threatening drivers.

“We believe that certain criminals are pretending to be car washers to hijack people. The N3 intersection is particularly bad because of the pattern of the roads, which prevent security officials and police from easily chasing them.”

He said three vehicle hijackers operating under the guise of being window washers had been arrested last month.

“Another problem is that these guys know all the hiding spots in the area, and simply disappear.”

Numerous residents have complained of being threatened and assaulted at various intersections when they refuse to allow their windows to be washed.

Resident Leon de Bruin, who has been involved with the issue and who last year led a “protest” at the Bruma intersection, appealed to residents not to give these window washers food or money.

“This only encourages them,” he said, adding that although the problem had not been resolved, the number of assaults on motorists had decreased.

Member of the mayoral committee for safety in Joburg, Michael Sun, said there were several hotspots for window washers across the city.

“The police will not arrest them. In a few cases, our metro police officers have arrested them and taken them to the nearest police stations, which simple release them,” he said.

Sun said the city was in the process of arranging with the National Prosecuting Authority to set aside one day a week in the newly established municipal courts, for window-washer cases to be addressed.

“This should happen within the next month or so,” he said.

Window washers plague motorists at several intersections, including at Bruma intersection, the Greenstone area, Grayston Drive in Sandton and on Joe Slovo Drive.

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