Key jammer gangs hit city - Women driving SUVs are prime targets in and around city hotspots

2013-10-22 00:00

MORE than 10 vehicles are being remote jammed per day in the Pietermaritzburg City Centre and an alleged kingpin, linked to more than 23 cases, has recently been re-arrested.

The Witness can reveal that prime targets are women driving SUVs, especially Toyotas and BMWs, and the hotspots are Church, Retief, Boshoff, Langalibalele and Pietermaritz streets.

Other specific hotspots include the parking lots at Parklane Spar at the corner of Greyling and Chief Albert Luthuli Streets, Poobie Naidoo Sports Shop in Boshoff Street, A.S. Chetty Building at 333 Church Street, any parking near Market Square, the temples on Langalibalele Street and near the Department of Home Affairs building at the top end of Church Street.

The Midlands Liberty Mall, which was once a hotspot, has, however managed to curb the problem with no reported incidents in the past six months. This is due to several warning signs and CCTV cameras.

Sources have revealed that the crime is being committed by several gangs within the CBD. The gangs appear to have roots in Mphophomeni, Hammarsdale and Sobantu.

“There are normally three guys who operate — one who jams the remote, the other who quickly gets in and out of the vehicles with the goods and the other who keeps watch. You don’t normally notice them because they appear to be walking in the area or pretend to be talking on their cellphone. They normally keep the jammer in their pocket and keep it constantly pressed down in a bid to jam as many cars as possible,” said the source. A police source said they were seeing the same suspects being arrested repeatedly.

“Some of the suspects have pleaded guilty and they have told us that they mainly target woman driving SUVs because they are easy victims and they are sure to get valuable items they can resell. We believe that theft out of motor vehicles is to largely feed a growing drug habit by these suspects. The stolen items are generally sold to buy whoonga at R20 a straw, which is purchased in Pietermaritz Street. They are looking for laptops, sunglasses, handbags or any valuables they can sell for quick cash. People should refrain from leaving valuables in their cars and double-check that they have locked them,” said the source.

Recently, Naushad Hamid of Durban was robbed of $50 000 (R492 800) as well as travel documents when his Toyota Hi-Lux D4D bakkie was remote jammed in Church Street. Suspects have since been arrested in the case and most of the money was retrieved.

R20 000 of the money, however, was allegedly used by the suspect to buy clothes, drugs and for parties.

Official crime statistics indicate an increase in theft out of motor vehicles in the CBD from 371 cases in 2011/2012 to 407 in 2012/2013.

Remote jammers, which prevent a car from being locked by the driver, enable thieves to get into a vehicle and make off with valuables in a short time.

Police said in most cases a home electronic gate remote, that emits a higher frequency than a vehicle remote, was used to jam the car remote signal from locking the vehicle.

Dawie Buys, manager of the motor division at the South African Insurance Association, said remote jamming claims were previously not entertained by the industry, but due to the sharp increase in it, their policy has changed, provided there is sufficient video or other surveillance footage. “Most insurance policies need evidence of violent and forcible entry to the vehicle for theft cover to be honoured,” said Buys.

Over the past 10 years, he said, the industry had worked with police and anti-crime initiatives, which had seen a 60% reduction in vehicle theft claims over the past 10 years.

Toyotas are apparently less likely to be targetted. Company spokesperson Leo Kok said both the Hilux and Fortuner were fitted with the highest possible and accredited international and national safety measures.

• Skumbu “Mfra” Zaca (38) from Mphophmeni appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court on Friday charged with several counts of theft out of a motor vehicle, where it is alleged a remote jamming device was used to gain access. The matter was adjourned until Thursday.

CAR JAMMING VICTIM SHARES HER EXPERIENCE

I’VE just become a crime statistic. My car was remote-jammed while I was parked in Church Street in the Pietermaritzburg CBD. I’m annoyingly conscious of security but, as in most cases, this was the one time I let my guard down and the vultures were waiting.

Rushing to get back to work, I removed my valuables (my watch, bracelet and money) and placed them in my handbag and covered it with a blanket, before popping into a shop for five minutes. I activated the car alarm but didn’t double check to see if it was indeed locked. When I got back to the car, I saw other motorists looking at my vehicle, but thought it was because I was double-parked. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, besides the fact that my rear passenger door was not closed properly. That was until I got to the office and reached out for my bag, which was not there. Even then it didn’t strike me that my car was remote jammed. I thought, perhaps in my haste, the bag had fallen out of the car. So I went back to the shop only to be told my car was probably remote jammed and that it was a common occurrence there. I then spoke to a few people around who said they saw two men opening the car, a minute after I left, and make off with my handbag. Suspects have since been arrested and my watch retrieved from a woman who bought it for R40. My bag with my cards was thrown out at a taxi-rank. The only good to come of this was my pleasure in knowing that the police had done a sterling job in arresting suspects in less than a week. The suspects have been linked to a gang operating in the CBD. — Niyanta Singh.

REPORTED THEFTS FROM VEHICLES IN PAST 3 DAYS

1. J.M. Parekh was robbed of R70 000 cash, four cigarette boxes and a money counting machine. His vehicle was parked on Langalibalele Street, near the temples. He said he had locked his vehicle.

2. C.A. Krunhoff was robbed of R20 000, a hair dryer and nail set. She had locked her vehicle and was parked in Victoria Road.

3. T.N. Ngcobo was robbed of a laptop valued at R5 000 after he had parked outside the A.S. Chetty building in Church Street. He too had locked his vehicle.

4. K. Ramdew had his cellphone, camera and modem worth R4 800 stolen from his car that was parked in Boshoff Street. His vehicle was locked.

5. S.M. Cassim was robbed of his car battery and radio worth R4 500. He had locked his car when he had parked it in Boshoff Street.

6. T. Biyela had a bag of washing powder worth R80 stolen from her locked car in Jabu Ndlovu Street.

7. S. Surajlal had a cheque book stolen from his locked vehicle, parked at the corner of Church and Retief streets. Shortly thereafter police advised him that they had found his cheque book on suspects who had been arrested.

8. B.G. Sibiya was robbed of R4 500 cash when his locked car was parked outside St Anne’s Hospital in Jabu Ndlovu Street.

9. T.G. Mkhize had a cellphone and R8 750 taken out of her locked car that had been parked at Parklane Spar.

10. Z.L. Shandu was robbed of various items and R1 958 cash after he locked the truck he had parked in Hoosen Haffejee Street.

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