Durban - More than 300 images and videos have been taken of rock throwing hotspots in the eThekwini region as part of a private, intelligence-driven aerial investigation that could help authorities properly tackle the alarming highway scourge.
After brainstorming ideas, members of the crime-fighting Tactical Shooting Team (TST) teamed up with deputy mayor Fawzia Peer, security company Reaction Unit South Africa (Rusa) and Metro Police in a bid to come up with useful information on rock throwing, which has claimed several lives over the years.
They met at Rusa’s headquarters in Verulam last Monday before Peer was taken on a helicopter tour of bridges – vantage points for criminals, who throw rocks onto cars travelling below, hoping to rob the hapless victims.
“This exercise was invaluable. It’s a model that every city needs to conduct,” said TST’s Rivaaj Ramdas, who with his team of volunteers have been in the forefront of privately-run initiatives to fight this disturbing crime trend.
“Yes, it’s a costly one, but it’s due diligence that we are asking other communities to do; a study people need to engage in, a dissemination and a sharing of information by the different communities.”
He said before taking to the air, a round table discussion took place, to share intelligence.
“A list was drawn up of the bridges, squatter settlements in close vicinity and areas of interest that needed to be covered.”
He said when looking at a settlement from their air, defined pathways were clearly visible, as were possible dangers in the form of illegal electricity connections.
“With this initiative, SAPS now has a picture of the settlement. They know that there are, for example, five entrances, five exits.
"Should they need to penetrate, they will know how to do so safely, without risking the lives of officers.”
TST is now calling on the public to help generate creative solutions.
“People might have thought of something that we may have overlooked. Having highlighted the complexity of this issue, we’ve realised that it’s not only the patrolling of bridges that’s going to fix the problem; we need a criminological study, politicians, people to apply their minds to understand why this is going on. We need to have proactive and reactive measures,” he said.
“We have the intelligence and the photographs. If anybody feels they can use it, to put an end to this crime, we will make the information available to them.”
Ramdas, 41, the TST head and a community newspaper director, thanked Peer, Metro Police Superintendent Morgan Subramany and Rusa’s Prem Balram for their help in taking the initiative forward.
“The deputy mayor has taken the lead in trying to fight rock throwing. She’s been very vocal and instrumental in trying to address this issue.
"It was reassuring when we heard her speak. She said there’s a lot of red tape when its comes to putting cages on the bridges; a lot of due processes need to be followed,” he said.
RUSA covered the R14 000 cost of last week’s operation.
The company had attended several rock throwing incidents and even offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprits responsible for a recent attack that led to the deaths of siblings Amina Haffejee, 16, and Abdur Raheem, 7.
Ramdas said TST had now formed a special operations team and a safety and security team whose members are on standby all hours to not only deal with rock throwing but to respond to any crisis the city faced.
“The safety and security team’s WhatsApp group consists of SAPS, Metro Police, Search and Rescue, car tracking companies, security companies, CPFs, social workers and medical doctors.
"It has now developed into a 24 hour call centre where crimes and issues that affect the community are reported. We therefore run shifts dispatching help.”
Ramdas said his team were also looking for sponsors for about 6 000 educational pamphlets on the dangers of rock throwing that would be published in isiZulu and English.
“We want to hand these out to residents of the squatter settlements and tell them that there is a reward for information.”
Rizaan Amed, 33, the second-in-charge at TST who has been actively involved in the anti-rock throwing fight, said: “At the end of the day we want to save people’s lives and the network is there for that purpose.
"We don’t do it for fame; this is a blessing from the Almighty. This is a brotherhood to help people.”
Quinton Naidoo, 32, a member of TST from Chatsworth, said: “We are out on the streets every day and are trying to minimise crime in every way possible.”
Nishkar Heera, 28, of Westville, said: “There’s no place for such acts in society. You have a 5 to 10kg rock coming through your windscreen and people are not sure how to handle this.
"Initiatives like the heli flight is needed because it puts us in a better stead to respond to situations better. We don’t want to run into a scene blind.”
Superintendent Subramany said a task team was working around the clock, disrupting any activity around bridges.
“Our enforcement strategies include roadworthy checks on all vehicles and removal of pedestrians loitering at near proximity of bridges,” he said.
TST INFORMATION GUIDE
-Jameson Nainappa (Kershan): 073 959 6959
-Quinton Lloyd Naidoo: 074 695 2562
-Nishkar Heera: 081 757 7947
-Lendel Pillay: 084 299 3087
-Rizaan Amed: 062 164 2103