Farmers fight losing battle with ‘sticky-tape gang’

2014-02-25 00:00

THE so-called “sticky-tape gang” is striking fear into the hearts of farmers in the Cato Ridge and Camperdown areas with its reign of terror.

This is according to one farmer, whose farm was recently targeted by the gang, and who alleged that police are not taking the action they need to.

He claims a number of farms in the area have been targeted by the gang; not just the three mentioned by police.

The farmer, who asked not to be named, said the gang of eight to 10 men, all armed, overpowered his worker at their pig sty last week and bound his hands behind his back.

“They came in, in force. They bent the security gate and took him into the kitchen, where they put a bag over his head. One put his foot on the worker’s head and said to him, ‘Today’s a good day for you to die’.

“I trust my guy. He’s worked for me for a long time. He doesn’t want to come to work now because he’s so traumatised.”

The farmer said the men had frightened his pigs to the extent that many of them jumped out of their pens. “Three female pigs died as a result of their injuries and they had 55 piglets between them. I am now bottle-feeding 55 babies.”

He said the gang had used his tools to gain access to his strongroom, using drills, angle grinders and hammers, causing about R40 000 in damage to his home. Whereas previous burglars had targeted TVs, DVDs and clothing, this gang took only guns, torches and binoculars.

The man was critical of police, saying they had stopped doing farm checks. “This is a hotspot. They should patrol at least once a day.”

The man was, however, full of praise for the three security companies — Achievers, Triple S and Magma Security — operating in the area.

“The police say they are working hand-in-hand with them, but the security companies do all the work. I have the world of respect for them, but it costs money to belong to the security companies. We’re not rich farmers, we’re just trying to make a living. I’m still rattled. It has hit us hard. They devastated our home. It was a mess; it took us five to six hours to clean up. If the dogs bark or whine a bit, I run outside. They have terrified the hell out of us. We have to be very, very vigilant.”

Koos Marais, of the agricultural union Kwanalu, said he was not aware of a sustained reign of terror by a gang but said that Kwanalu had repeatedly called for better police visibility in rural areas.

Pete Stainbank, of the Eston Mid-Illovo Farm Watch, said he was aware of three cases linked to the gang. He said farmers in their area were forced to spend huge amounts of money to protect themselves because they were so isolated.

Stainbank said he too had noticed that regular police visits to farms had tapered off, but added that local police stations were under pressure.

Weekend Witness reported on Saturday that the gang used pliers to pinch the flesh of an elderly woman on a Camperdown farm on Friday. They use sticky tape to bind and gag their victims.

Visible policing stepped up

COLONEL Jay Naicker said yesterday there had been no new developments regarding the farm break-ins.

“Police have noted the concerns of the farmer and the matter has been addressed with the [Camperdown] police station management and their members,” he said, adding police maintain a farm visit register. They regularly visit farmers with the register, on which the farmers acknowledge the visits.

Naicker urged the farmers to attend Community Policing Forum meetings.

“If a member of the community has any grievance regarding the police or crime, they may approach the station commander for their problem to be addressed. Police have no knowledge of any other similar incidents in and around Camperdown or in the Midlands area.

“Police have stepped up visible policing duties in and around the area, and the detectives are working round the clock to arrest the culprits responsible for the attacks,” said Naicker.

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