Criminals make their mark

2008-05-16 00:00

Received an e-mail warning you that houses are being marked as potential targets by criminals and thought it was an urban legend?

Consider yourself warned: syndicate members really do mark intercoms, gates and walls with coloured crayons to identify vulnerable targets, according to Blue Security’s community liaison manager Michelle Caswell, who was a police member for over 16 years.

She said the markings are a sign from syndicate members at the bottom of the chain of command to those who operate on higher levels.

"The syndicates operate as a well-run business and have different levels," said Caswell.

At the bottom of the ladder are markers who are paid a small amount of money to patrol streets and find future victims and feasible targets for particular kinds of crime.

Recently, these markers have been known to use coloured crayons to mark properties, depending on what crime could be best committed there and the interests of the particular syndicate.

They usually get away with their activities because they are only carrying crayons. There is no evidence of notes, SMSes sent to other syndicate members, or photographs taken with cellphones, said Caswell.

On the next rung up the ladder are the observers and information gatherers. They watch the marked properties to identify weaknesses, like a single woman or pensioner living alone. "They watch people come and go to see whether they leave and return at the same time every day. They chat to domestic workers and gardeners in the area.

"If occupants of a house watch their plasma television or work on laptop computers with the curtains open, the criminals will get an idea of what valuables may be found in the house," she said.

This information is passed on to the "doers", who commit the crime. The perpetrators may drive past the premises to get a feel for the area and identify entry and exit points.

However, they limit their time on the streets because they become well known to the police and are vulnerable to being arrested, especially when carrying unlicensed firearms and driving stolen cars with false number plates.

"The ‘doers’ plan who does what, who will be the shooter and identify a driver — syndicate drivers become quite well known because if they are good, they can prevent the group from being arrested. A driver who can evade the police during a car chase earns a reputation in the criminal world and can charge a higher fee for his services," she said.

Once the "job" is done, the criminals deal with a buyer who usually has a source waiting to receive goods.

Payment is distributed to all the levels of the syndicate, with the biggest amount going to the leader. High-ranking members usually have aliases linked to rank structures, with generals being the highest rank.

"Their rank indicates how good they are at crime and at not getting caught," said Caswell.

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