Spike in violent house robberies in Gauteng as elderly become prime targets

141 Armed robbers have hit the Crosby area more than 20 times in a spate of armed house robberies. This couple talk about their ordeal at the hands of these criminals. 241011. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

141 Armed robbers have hit the Crosby area more than 20 times in a spate of armed house robberies. This couple talk about their ordeal at the hands of these criminals. 241011. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Published Sep 25, 2021


Johannesburg - Violent house robberies continue to surge in Gauteng’s northern suburbs at a worrying rate, with elderly residents now becoming prime targets for criminals.

This is according to various private security companies in the province, who said they have seen a drastic increase in violent house robberies in the past two months.

Recently, an elderly couple who live in the northern suburbs in Johannesburg were assaulted by a gang of robbers who forced their way into their home during the day.

The 80-year-old man lost all his teeth and was severely wounded by the gang of armed robbers, while his wife was tied up and was forced to watch as her husband was beaten.

Last week, an elderly woman, who also lives in a plush area in the northern suburbs in Johannesburg, was overpowered by a group of criminals in her home. She was beaten and dragged across the floor before the robbers ransacked her home.

Another elderly man was also recently released from hospital after sustaining a number of serious wounds during a robbery at his home in the Northern suburbs.

Andre Aiton, managing director of private security company Beagle Armed Watch, said they have seen a “huge increase” in violent house robberies in Johannesburg over the past two months, with a worrying number of elderly residents being targeted.

“We clearly have had some elderly folk targeted, which we are worried about,” said Aiton.

“We find it strange that a lot of our elderly folk in our footprint have been targeted, one after the other. Are the criminals studying the potential victims before they pounce? We can’t really say. It could be opportunistic crime, and it probably is.

“I recently arrived at an 81-years-old woman’s home after a robbery. She was totally bruised because she had been dragged on the ground.

“These criminals are absolutely heartless, and again they will do anything to you that they feel needs to be done.”

Aiton said robbers are gaining access by either following their victims home or by dismantling front gates and smashing through front doors within minutes.

Beagle patrols in areas including Randpark Ridge, Weltevreeden Park, Fairlands, Northcliff, Berario, Emmerentia, Linden, Blairgowrie, Morningside, Craighall Park and Melville.

Aiton said while it was hard to pinpoint exactly which areas were being targeted, they had noticed violent house robberies across all the areas they look after.

“We have to be careful not to instil fear. But from our footprint, most of the suburbs have had armed robberies. It’s not driven into any one specific suburb.

“Some suburbs would be less likely to have something like this if they have invested in additional barriers like boomed off areas.

“But please don’t believe that boomed-off areas are silver bullets. Crimes like these are less likely to occur more frequently in areas that have stepped up security.”

Criminals are also becoming far more violent, said Aiton.

“Beagle subscribes to Netcare 911. We’ve seen recently that we’ve had to call on Netcare’s services to the scene of an armed robbery far more often now because victims have been abused and beaten up badly. It’s not pretty arriving at a house robbery.

“It’s frightening the amount of work that is going into trauma counselling for these families who are victims to violent house robberies at the moment.

“We would definitely say that home invasions have increased during the Covid-19 period, and we are not seeing a decline.”

Police officers and crime scene specialists outside the house where an elderly man was killed during an attack on him and his wife during a house robbery in Sophiatown . Picture: Antoine de Ras, 30/09/2015

Private security company Fidelity ADT said they too have seen an increase in violent house robberies in the province, with Sundowner in Randburg one of the areas most hard hit.

“We can confirm that we have noticed an increase in the number of home invasions and armed robberies in recent months in our footprint,” said Charnel Hattingh, head of marketing and communications for Fidelity Services Group.

“The areas where we have seen an increase include the northern suburbs. Sundowner in Randburg has been particularly hard hit. In Soweto, specifically the Protea Glen area, we are seeing a lot of common theft, armed robberies and house break-ins and theft.

“Although a lot of the crime is opportunistic, criminals have definitely become more brazen and enter homes even if residents are home.”

Recently, ADT had to respond to a house robbery in the West Rand, where an elderly couple were badly assaulted with a weapon by three armed suspects in the house.

“The elderly lady got hit over the head with a metal object. Her husband got beaten up so badly that he could barely walk. This just shows how aggressive and to what extent these criminals would go.”

Hattingh said they were working hard with the SAPS to reduce crime in the province.

“Although there is an increase in crime, security companies, community policing forums and SAPS are working hard to prevent crime across Gauteng, with increased visibility, proactive patrolling and working together,” said Hattingh.

Tilly Michaels, chairperson of CPF in Sophiatown, is comforted by a police officer at the scene of the house murder where an elderly man was killed during an attack on him and his wife in a house robbery in Sophiatown . Picture: Antoine de Ras, 30/09/2015

A private security company that operates in the Johannesburg inner city said they too had noticed an increase in violent house robberies.

“We work mostly in the Johannesburg inner city area, but our partners and colleagues have reported an alarming increase in house robberies in Joburg over the past few months,” said the owner, who did not want to be named.

“There has also been an increase in business robberies because a lot of the buildings are empty as many people are still working from home. We have also noticed that when there is a drop in the lockdown levels, there appears to be an increase in house and business robberies.

“In the inner city, it's easier to spot vehicles which are not meant to be on the roads after the curfew, but in the residential areas it’s a bit harder because this is where people live and there is usually more movement in these areas that are harder to manage after the curfew.”

Violent house robberies were also taking place in all residential areas in Gauteng, and not just in the northern suburb areas, he said.

“We focus mostly on the inner city areas but we have heard about an increase in house robberies in the northern suburbs. There also appear to be waves of crimes in certain areas where criminals target for a period and then move onto the next area, but then they might return to the original areas, so I would say that no one area in Gauteng is the prime target for house robbers.”

The private security company owner added that he had also noticed extreme levels of violence from criminals recently.

“It becomes a vicious circle, because we as security companies are forced to meet violence with violence. But the nature of these crimes is overall violent, with many people dying or getting seriously injured.”

“In Kensington last month, a family of four were victims of a violent house robbery. The robbers gained entry inside the house at around 6am when the father was leaving for work.

“They poisoned the dog, tied up the two young children and the mother, and shot the father in front of his family. Luckily he survived but the family are still traumatised.”

While crime may not be at an all-time high in the province, he said it had certainly increased over the past few months.

“It doesn't look like it will be slowing down any time soon,” he added.

Private security companies also expect crime to further increase as we approach the festive season.

The Saturday Star