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Cape Town - The summer season hasn’t properly started yet and criminals are already scouring Cape Town’s hiking trails to prey on hikers.

The police confirmed a mugging incident which took place on Thursday at Newlands Ravine where four victims, aged between 31 and 58, were held at knifepoint by a group of five attackers who tied them up, stripped them and robbed them of all their possessions.

Spokesperson FC van Wyk said three of the four victims were stabbed during the attack, and the eldest was rushed to hospital. He added that four suspects had been promptly arrested.

“Cape Town Central Police members arrested four suspects between the ages of 20 and 27. The police are still searching for the fifth suspect, who ran away in the direction of a residential area with the victims' cellphones and cash,” said Van Wyk.

Police recovered clothes and takkies belonging to the victims that were in the possession of the four suspects, as well as a silver flick knife, car-breaking implements and one large, self- made Allen key in possession of a suspect.

“The victims identified their belongings and pointed out the suspects to the police, and their belongings were handed back to them. The suspects will remain in custody until their first court appearance, at which the police will officially oppose bail,” said Van Wyk.

Experienced hiker Kosta Papageorgiou, who has hiked Lions Head about 500 times, said that every tourist season there was an increase in crime on the trails, and most of these crimes were planned.

“The hiking culture is quite intense, and the criminal mind has noted it as a place to go shopping. Criminals are becoming bolder, and with winter gone everyone is coming out,” he said.

Papageorgiou said SanParks rangers were often busy in Noordhoek or ­Silvermine, and couldn’t be everywhere.

“Hikers also go out in expensive gear that attracts criminals. As much as it’s a free country, we need to avoid being naive,” he said.

The Mountain Club’s chairperson, Martin Hutton-Squire, said the mountains were difficult to patrol, and that the lack of patrols was a problem.

SANParks regional spokesperson Saskia Marlowe said the Table Mountain National Park had a Visitor Safety Team whose role was to keep crime to a minimum in the park.

“This team is supported by a dog unit consisting of 12 security-trained canines.

“The park is also a member of the Table Mountain Safety Forum.

“The other members of this forum are the SAPS, the Department of Community Safety, the Metro Police, Law Enforcement and Civil Society, who do joint patrols.

“Given the extent and remoteness of the park, it is a challenge to have a presence everywhere at all times,” she said.

Marlowe said “High Crime” warning signage had been erected in the park in locations where there had been repeated incidents. She said the signs had been placed at entrances across the park.

Cape Argus