The scene of the fierce exchange of fire between robbers and Hi-Risk Unit security officers at Fort Klapperkop nature reserve. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

Pretoria - Key information, preparation and an astute decoy plan led to the death of an attacker in a hail of bullets at Fort Klapperkop on Tuesday night. His accomplice is critical in hospital and under police guard after a shootout with security personnel during a robbery gone wrong at the nature reserve.

Hi-Risk Unit security company spokesperson Arthur Crewe said the fact that the victims visiting the nature reserve survived the attack showed that information from numerous informants was beginning to yield results. “This information allows us to stay a step ahead of the attackers because when we know better, we do better.”

The strategic response unit of Hi-Risk was following up on information that 10 heavily-armed suspects had entered the nature reserve. The tip-off obtained from the informants was that Hi-Risk had in recent weeks been hampering the robbers’ operation. It thus forced them to change their operating time to after dark.

The suspects told the informants they would strike after Hi-Risk security vehicles had left the reserve. According to Crewe, the gang had allegedly gained new members who were even more violent and had just been released from prison.

In response, the Hi-Risk Unit decided to move the marked vehicles out of sight. The unit then organised back-up in unmarked vehicles to patrol and stop off at viewpoints. K9 units were also deployed throughout the night when the nature reserve had about 10 to 15 cars with couples at viewpoints. “As the people started to leave at around 8pm, we received a call that the gang was attacking a car at Viewpoint 2,” said Crewe.

The undercover vehicles responded and found nobody at that viewpoint. However, soon afterwards, a number of suspects attacked the unmarked security vehicle with two personnel inside. The perpetrators bashed the driver’s window with a steel pipe and cricket bat. In the process, they struck the driver on his bulletproof vest and arm.

Glass was shattered over the driver’s face and eyes. As the guards got out of the vehicle to engage the suspects, the perpetrators realised they were Hi-Risk Unit operators and opened fire. The driver returned fire, hitting two of the suspects.

The first man died in the exchange of fire, while the second was detained a few metres away. He sustained multiple wounds. Within seconds, back-up law enforcement officers arrived and pursued the remaining suspects into the nature reserve. After a few minutes officers from Sunnyside SAPS, the Metro K9 Unit and a police chopper joined to assist in the search.

Hi-Risk Unit, which has been guarding the nature reserve over the past decade for free, said it had more tricks up its sleeve to curb the crime scourge, but needed assistance, especially from the City of Tshwane. “We have solid plans to curb crime, but just need money,” said Crewe. He was reluctant to divulge the security plans for the nature reserve, an increasingly popular jogging and cycling destination established in 1898.

Crewe said the introduction of visiting hours at the nature reserve, as suggested by the public, was not the ultimate solution. During a meeting at the University of Pretoria two weeks ago, those present proposed that the nature reserve opened at 7am and closed at 6pm.

Shattered glass in the unmarked Hi-Risk Unit security company vehicle following an attack by a gang at Fort Klapperkop nature reserve. One of the robbers was killed, while the other is under police guard in hospital. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi/African News Agency (ANA)

But Crewe said: “Closing times will definitely stop the public from coming inside. However, this won’t stop the crime. This means that criminals will rob their targets during the day.” Attackers posing as joggers have in the past robbed people during the day.

Crewe said the criminals were smart and needed even smarter interventions such as intelligence and technology. He said criminals who targeted the nature reserve had been proven over the past few months to be highly aggressive. “There are three different gangs of 10 robbing people inside the reserve.”

Sunnyside police spokesperson Captain Daniel Mavimbela said the injured suspect was expected to appear in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court next Thursday on charges of malicious damage to property and attempted robbery.

The ward councillor for the area, Shaun Wilkinson, congratulated Hi-Risk Unit. A few weeks ago, a record number of 30 muggings were recorded in just 13 days at Fort Klapperkop. “It’s no secret that the nature reserve has been inundated with crime incidents over the past few years,” he said.

Hi-Risk was also praised on social media, with Doron Goldstein saying: “So proud of your team and thankful. Great to have you as our security provider in Groenkloof.”

Elaine Samons wrote: “My daughter and her four friends were attacked at Fort Klapperkop on June 8. I just want to say thank you Hi-Risk Unit for going above and beyond the call of duty. I salute you. You are true heroes in my eyes.”

Joel Hirschman said: “Well done. Pity all the thugs weren’t killed; next time.”

Neels van der Westhuizen said the action to stop the criminal acts at night was brilliant.

Corné Smith-Verwey posted: “Well done guys. What I do not understand and what actually angers me is why do people still go there knowing how dangerous it is.”

Pretoria News