Bike ‘mafia’ targets Durban

2014-08-11 00:00

DURBAN cyclists are under threat as an international smuggling syndicate targets high-end bicycles.

An upsurge in attacks on cyclists and theft of pricey cycles has hit the city’s top suburbs with hotspots identified in Westville and Durban North.

The sophisticated criminal network peddles stolen bicycles from across the city into Malawi and African states that share a border with South Africa.

Police intelligence sources revealed to The Witness that the smuggling of the stolen bicycles was highly organised, while the theft remained largely opportunistic.

The crime spree comes as petty criminals are starting to realise the value of top-end competition bicycles, and their cross-border market broadens.

A well-placed police source, who could not be named as he was not authorised to speak to the press, said that bicycles were big business for criminal enterprises.

“We have seen a marked increase in the theft of high-end bicycles and these items are then smuggled into Malawi.”

He said that within the last year, police had conducted two raids, which led to the recovery of nearly 50 stolen bicycles.

“In one instance, a truck was stopped near Pietermaritzburg and when it was taken to the weigh-bridge and searched, officers found top-end frames, parts and bicycles concealed among bales of clothing.

“The truck had been bound for Malawi,” he said.

He added that during another raid on a home in Greenwood Park, Durban, some 20 bicycles thought to be stolen were seized.

Marshall Security director Tyron Powell said that their robbery statistics highlighted a definite spike in the rate of bicycle thefts.

“In the past six months in Durban North we have seen an increase in these cases among our client base.

“There is definitely something underlying these acts of crime,” he said.

Cyclesphere owner Greg Albert said that the crime trend was alarming.

“We have customers coming back and forth here to replace their bikes that have been stolen. Cyclists have become targets for criminals.”

Albert said that while there had been a noticeable increase in the theft of bicycles, attacks on cyclists had soared too.

“These guys are not stupid. They understand that some bicycles are worth nearly R150 000, and people like [internationally competitive cyclist] Vaughan Cronje are becoming victims. “His bike is one of a kind and I don’t expect that to surface in South Africa.

“It, along with many others, will be smuggled out of the country,” Albert said.

Cronje, a top Durban cyclist training for the World Cycling Championships in Slovenia, was attacked last week while on a training ride in Westville.

He was stabbed repeatedly and his bicycle stolen.

Do you have any information? Contact Jeff Wicks: 082 073 8565



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