Cop ‘on crime spree’

2013-11-27 00:00

A POLICEMAN with the Inanda Tactical Response Team (TRT) has been charged with a massive crime spree through Durban, in yet another scandal for the elite unit.

Constable Jefrey Maya (27) and an accomplice were arrested after reportedly crashing a car they had allegedly stolen in Kenville, Durban North, last Thursday morning.

However, a police spokesperson has alleged that an investigation had since linked the officer to robberies, burglaries, hijackings and car thefts from central Durban to Greenwood Park and Inanda in the past year.

Meanwhile, 11 members of the Inanda TRT — along with colleagues from Pinetown — are standing trial in Pietermaritzburg for beating a man to death in 2010.

And The Witness has been told that an investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate is now “being finalised” into the shooting deaths of seven suspects by yet another group of TRT officers last year.

Yesterday, local residents and councillors expressed outrage that policemen continued to be implicated in crimes around Durban.

Mary de Haas, of the KZN Violence Monitor, said TRT units in Inanda and Port Shepstone were of “particular concern” — but that “all tactical response teams should be either disbanded, or taken within an accountable structure: they seem to be a law unto themselves”.

Police spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane told The Witness that a resident of Smithfield Road, Kenville, noticed two men “tampering with” a neighbour’s car — a silver VW Polo — early last Thursday morning.

The men reportedly drove away in a panic when police arrived, and crashed the vehicle shortly afterward. The suspects were found with housebreaking tools.

Maya and a 25-year-old man, Mthandwa Ngubane, were arrested at the scene, and appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Zwane said: “Charges of attempted theft of a vehicle and possession of housebreaking implements are being investigated by Greenwood Park SAPS.”

However, The Witness understands that the final list of charges could involve dozens of crimes, and solve a number of major outstanding cases for detectives. Zwane could not confirm the spree.

Robin Candy, chairperson of the Greenwood Park Community Policing Forum, said his members had often been “frustrated by ineffective follow-up from the Inanda SAPS — and now this!”

“I am disappointed but not at all surprised to learn an Inanda TRT cop has been arrested for these crimes,” said Candy.

“One of our members actually led police there to a house where the criminals were actually caught loading stolen goods — and still there has been no conviction.”

De Haas said complaints of abuse by tactical response team members had been “widespread” since former police commissioner Bheki Cele formed the tough-on-crime units in 2009 — and that many more were afraid to lodge complaints against their “thuggish” members.

“I’ve found it very difficult to establish who is actually in charge of these units, and, certainly, who is accountable when they cross the line,” she said.

Moses Dlamini, spokesperson for the IPID, said the agency had not yet been tasked with probing Maya, but that other investigations into Inanda members were still active — “and there should be some interesting developments soon”.

This investigation relates to the shooting deaths of seven people at a house in Amaoiti, Inanda, last March, in which TRT members claimed squatters had opened fire on them. None of the police were injured.

Earlier on the same day, four more men were killed in two other shoot-outs with Inanda police.

“We are awaiting a technical report; otherwise the investigation is complete,” said Dlamini.

Heinz de Boer, a councillor in Durban North, said it was “very disappointing” that those tasked to protect became involved in crime.

However, De Boer said an even greater concern was “the extremely low conviction rate”.

“It is my understanding that substantially less than 10% of crimes committed actually result in an arrest and conviction,” he said.

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