Crimes around city’s parks and forests on the rise

2017-09-20 14:50
Robbers reportedly used Wylie Park to enter an Old Howick Road home in the early hours of Monday morning. The park, and forests surrounding nearby areas such as Prestbury, Blackridge, Wembley, and Chase Valley have also been used by criminals to access properties before they flee into the bushes.

Robbers reportedly used Wylie Park to enter an Old Howick Road home in the early hours of Monday morning. The park, and forests surrounding nearby areas such as Prestbury, Blackridge, Wembley, and Chase Valley have also been used by criminals to access properties before they flee into the bushes. (Ian Carbutt)

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Parks and forests in the city are becoming a haven for criminals, who are increasingly targeting homes that are adjacent to these leafy areas.

This is according to police and residents following a house robbery in Old Howick Road on Monday morning in which the robbers entered the property and escaped through Wylie Park, near Athlone Primary School.

A couple locked themselves and their two young children in the children’s bedroom after robbers smashed through their shatterproof glass window to get inside.

The couple, who asked not to be named, said the robbers came down from the World’s View area, through Wylie Park and cut their wire fence before entering their home and stealing a TV, a small hi-fi, a wallet and a laptop bag filled with cables.

The husband said he heard the beams in their garden trip at around 4 am and as he went to check the alarm panel near the front door, he heard a loud noise “like cannons firing”.

He said the robbers smashed through their shatterproof glass window near the front door after first breaking 11 glass panels on other windows near the bedrooms.

He said the electricity was out at the time of the break-in and he and his wife ran to their children’s bedroom and locked themselves in behind a security gate while waiting for police.

He said the cellphone signal on his wife’s phone was down and efforts to contact their armed response at the time were unsuccessful, reportedly due to technical issues.

He said their neighbours had heard the commotion and immediately called the police who arrived a few minutes after the robbers left.

“It is unrealistic to expect police to patrol the park and the surrounding forest but it is still a concern,” said the husband.

“It is terrible to think that a benefit like Wylie Park has turned into a curse for the community,” he said.

The previous home owner, Jeremy Brink, said he had lived in the house for 23 years before his home was invaded by armed robbers in October last year.

“After the incident I spent a substantial sum of money on security upgrades including the installation of additional beams, fencing and interior gates, but I decided that I was not prepared to live like a prisoner in my own home.”

He said the robbers smashed a lock off a gate to the fence bordering Wylie Park, activated the house perimeter beams and a burglar alarm, “smashed their way into my home, and went about their business”.

Brink said that shortly after the robbery, he was told that a person walking in Wylie Park had found some of his wife’s possessions about 150 metres from his home.

“It was never anticipated that the level of crime would escalate to the extent that citizens living adjacent to Wylie Park would need protection in the form of impenetrable fencing around the park.”

Chase Valley resident and neighbourhood watch member Mark Morcom said they are trying to upgrade the security in the area and had hopes of installing a thermal monitor camera pointed at the forest.

“We hear people walking around in the forest and talking but people do not want to patrol the area because it is isolated and is difficult to monitor.”

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said the forest areas provide easy cover for thieves to duck into the bushes to escape.

He added that these areas are difficult to patrol and so houses near forests are being targeted more.

He said there is a project in the pipelines to deal directly with the criminals using forests as access points and hiding places but could not reveal more information.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the municipality was not aware of crime occurring in the area “as no residents have reported it to us”.

“We will investigate the matter and act accordingly,” Mafumbatha said.


Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  house robberies

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