Gang besieges city suburb

2016-03-22 13:35
The gang is caught on CCTV attempting to break into a house in Hayfields last week.

The gang is caught on CCTV attempting to break into a house in Hayfields last week. (Supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - A crew of burglars with the same modus operandi as the infamous “Five-Minute Gang” is confounding police and striking fear into the hearts of residents in suburbs around Hayfields.

This gang, however, has a few extra tricks up their sleeves.

It is believed the gang, which has about nine members, is masterminded by a ­foreign national and moves their hideout on a regular basis in attempts to evade the police. The gang also regularly changes its getaway vehicles, making it difficult for detectives to hunt it down.

According to numerous police sources, the gang has struck more than 20 homes in the Hayfields, Cleland, Pelham and ­Lincoln Meade areas since mid-January.

In their latest strike, gang members ­burgled a house in Adams Road, Hayfields, on Saturday evening.

“This gang is new in town and is ­believed to have links to similar gangs in Durban. They are chopping and changing their members on a weekly basis and ­recruiting almost every day,” a police source said.

With a similar modus operandi to the Five-Minute Gang, the men ring the ­buzzer outside the main gate of the home they have targeted and wait for a response. If no voice comes over the intercom, the members strike.

Joey Govender, owner of Joey’s Towing, almost fell victim to the gang’s tricks. However, an alert neighbour intervened before the men could get through the front door. Govender said his Holly Road home in Cleland was targeted two weeks ago when four men pitched up outside his house in a white Mercedes Benz. After looking at the CCTV footage afterwards, Govender explained what he saw. “It was around 7.40 pm on a Saturday night and we were not at home. A white Mercedes Benz drives past the house. After a few minutes they return and park on the roadside. One guy jumps out and continuously presses the intercom for over a minute. I guess he was checking if anyone would ­answer the intercom,” said Govender.

He said the man got back into the ­vehicle and he and another man came to the intercom shortly after.

“He rings the intercom again to make sure no one is at home and then the two go to the front gate. It is motor-operated and you would think it is difficult to enter, but it took the two men about 10 seconds to derail the gate,” Govender said.

After the men opened the gate, they ran into the property towards the front door. Another man exited the car and ran ­towards them, clutching a crowbar in each hand. “While those guys were trying to break the slamlock gate, my neighbour saw them through the window and began shouting at them. On camera you can see the car backing into the driveway and when my neighbour shouted, the men calmly walked back to the car and drove off,” said Govender.

Since the attempted break-in at his home, Govender said his family is suspicious of every vehicle and every person walking on the road.

“We call the police often now just so they can patrol. I think people need to ­report all crime, even if it is minor; then the police can really see the proper statistics of crime in different areas,” he said.

Govender said there had been 12 ­burglaries and robberies in their road in the last three months.

“There are two gangs operating here. One is the Five-Minute Gang and the other targets smaller things like copper pipes, metal, bicycles and whatever smaller items they can get,” he said.

In another instance, the gang was seen using a VW Polo vehicle and attacking a home at 2.30 pm one afternoon.

“These are not just random burglaries; these people have great ‘intel’ and know exactly what they are doing,” added ­Govender.

According to police sources, the gang uses common housebreaking implements like crowbars and screwdrivers. The ­“highly organised and professional” syndicate derails electric gates and makes their way into the property, before penetrating the main entrances of the house.

With the alarm commonly being activated upon their entry, the gang sweeps through the house and flees within five minutes, before reaction units can arrive.

However, to make their crimes less ­suspicious, it is believed the gang members are cloaking themselves in municipal attire, posing as workers from the ­electricity department, to deter the ­suspicions of neighbours or passersby who may spot them.

Another difference with this syndicate is that they are suspected to be operating in teams of three.

It is believed the nine men divide ­themselves into three teams, using three different vehicles, and strike different ­areas simultaneously, stretching police and reaction units between three suburbs.

Similar gangs have operated in ­Pietermaritzburg and Durban since 2008, with the last group hauled into custody in September last year. That gang had been operating in the Hilton, Howick and Townhill areas.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Mthokozisi Ngobese said the police would comment today after reviewing cases pertaining to burglaries in the affected areas.

• amil.umraw@witness.co.za • kailene.pillay@witness.co.za

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime  |  gang  |  robbery

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