Thieves target popular café in Groenkloof
ADDITIONAL railings have been installed around the popular Café 41 in Groenkloof after repeated incidents of customers’ cellphones and laptops being snatched in broad daylight.
But the brazen thieves now pretend to be customers on the verandah of the restaurant and continue to snatch and run, says manager Alet van der Merwe.
“Our most recent incident happened over the weekend. A man came in and he went to sit in the smoking section. He told the waiter attending him that he needed some time to decide.
“As the waiter turned his back, the man quickly ran and grabbed a customer’s phone and jumped over the barrier. It happened so fast,” said Van der Merwe.
She said there was usually a vehicle waiting, similar to the ones popularly used by e-hailing companies Uber and Taxify, which whisked the thieves away.
“I do not have anything against (Volkswagen) Polos, but what we have observed is that in 90% of the incidents, a Polo is used as the getaway car. And these cars do not have number plates when they are used in the crimes,” said Van der Merwe.
She said they had to warn customers, especially those sitting at outside tables to avoid putting their phone on the table. They were also working with a security company which is doing patrols.
Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said the incidents of people losing expensive gadgets at coffee shops and restaurants was on the increase.
“We have seen a dramatic increase in these incidents, especially in the past few months. The areas being targeted include Pretoria and Joburg.
"The modus operandi is similar in most of the cases: a patron on his phone or walking in the parking lot suddenly has their cellphone grabbed by somebody from behind,” said Abramjee.
Alternatively, when they put it down it is snatched from in front of them. He said it appeared that a number of gangs was at work and crime had increases as lockdown was relaxed and people were out and about more.
The Groenkloof area has been a problem for a time, with increased security after a number of incidents in the nearby Groenkloof Nature Reserve.