‘Five-minute gangsters’ bust

2008-05-05 00:00

THREE men suspected of being members of the notorious “five-minute gang” were arrested yesterday in Montrose after residents and police worked together to nab them.

A series of well-executed robberies have plagued affluent suburbs in the past few weeks.

The arrests at the corner of Peter Brown and Francis Staniland drives were not dramatic, as two of the suspects gave in without a fight.

One made a brief bid for freedom by running down Francis Staniland Drive, but members of the Dog Unit and Flying Squad quickly apprehended him.

The men were caught during a crime operation that started at 10 am yesterday in reaction to the recent housebreakings.

Police were alerted to the presence of the suspects by a call from a suspicious resident.

The men were found in possession of two unlicensed 7,65 firearms, a holster and two Nokia cellphones. A Citi Golf 1,4, which is suspected to have been their getaway car, was found at the Cascades shopping centre.

It is believed that the suspects were dropped off in Montrose and their accomplice had driven to Cascades to await their pick-up call. The accomplice or accomplices are still on the loose, but police are confident of more arrests soon.

The vehicle, which is suspected to be stolen, had a set of Durban registration plates. On its front passenger seat, there was another set of KZN government number plates, and in the boot there was yet another set of Pietermaritzburg plates. None of the number plates were legally connected to the car.

Police said the vehicle’s chassis number tag had been removed and its engine number had been tampered with.

The suspects, who are aged between 24 and 34, lay on the grass verge, handcuffed, from 11 am to 1.30 pm before being taken away in a police van. One of them was heard complaining about the pain inflicted by the tight handcuffs. Passing motorists stopped to praise the police, while others shouted encouragement from their car windows.

“Thanks to the police. Thanks for the good work. My husband’s house was attacked on Saturday and expensive items were stolen,” said a woman hugging a police officer with tears pouring down her face.

The three men’s arrests are seen as just the start of the smashing of the syndicate, as police said yesterday they are hoping to arrest the kingpins soon.

The daylight robbers are said to have started in Durban before moving to Pietermaritzburg. There were several break-ins over the long weekend.

It has been reported that the gang drive new luxury cars and are well dressed. Two of the arrested suspects were dressed in trousers, long-sleeved formal shirts and trendy Crockett & Jones shoes. The third wore a golf T-shirt and shorts with Addidas casual footwear.

The “five-minute gang” targeted houses when no one was home. It was suspected that the arrested men were targeting a house owned by a doctor when they were nabbed. A resident, who read about the break-ins in The Witness, spotted a white Citi Golf dropping the suspects at the intersection and called the police.

The men stood on the pavement unaware that there was already an undercover policeman in a private vehicle monitoring them.

“A few minutes later, a police vehicle drove up Peter Brown Drive, and they started to panic. One of them tried to run, but police were all over him,” said Inspector Joey Jeevan, who was also at the scene of the arrest.

Chairman of the Town Hill Community Policing Forum, Stuart Knight, praised both the police and the resident who tipped them off.

A property owner, who cannot be named, and who lost goods worth R150 000 when his house was targeted on Thursday, said: “This is an absolutely fantastic job. I hope these arrests will be followed by more members of the same gang.

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