Gang of robbers target small businesses in Durban North

2013-11-22 00:00

A GANG of robbers and con artists constantly targeting local businesses in a Durban North shopping complex has left business owners fearing for their safety.

This comes after two recent incidents in which the armed robbers arrived in a black VW Polo and forced open the front gate and front door of the stationery shop in Northway Centre in Kenneth Kaunda Road (old Northway) and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash and a laptop.

One shop owner who asked not be be named for fear of a repeat attack, said the incident happened yesterday around 6.30 in the morning. “I have been operating from here since April and I have never had trouble … this was the first”.

“They also took the laptop. They are just interested in electronics to sell,” she said.

She said they were not being targeted during the day, but only after hours and that the gang’s robberies took an average of three minutes.

Security guard Thuthukani Ntanzi (23), who witnessed the incident unfold, said he spotted four armed men as they forced their way into the shop.

“They took laptops and the cash that was kept in a safe”.

Ntanzi said it was not the first time that the criminals had targeted the complex.

“Some guys came recently but they were driving a different car and they ran away before they could rob anyone when the alarms went off.”

Comics Take-Away owner Roland van Breemen said con artists targeting small businesses in the area had become a chronic problem.

“I have been here for 18 years and have been conned a few times. And cigarette theft is massive”.

PostNet in Durban North has also fallen prey to fast-talking con artists.

Manager Roxanne Swarbreck said a man came into their store with a R100 note to buy a R15 pen and duped them.

“His change would have been R85 but he said he had a R5 coin, instead he wanted R90 in notes back … and later we realised we gave him R90 change plus his R100 note”.

Pannagi restaurant was also duped by the same person, she said.

Swarbreck said business owners needed to be vigilant at all times, especially during the festive season, as criminals were looking for easy targets.

Greenwood Park CPF chairman Robin Candy said similar crimes were becoming a norm.

“A week ago, a coffee shop in Avoca Hills was robbed and the suspects took cash and two vehicles, which were later discovered at KwaMashu hostel.”

Candy said it was not enough that the police only recorded these cases, but more work needed to be done and culprits brought to book.

According to the 2012/13 criminal statistics released by the SAPS earlier, business robbery has steadily increased to an all-time high at 152 reported incidents.

In 2010/11 only 73 incidents were reported, the second lowest recording in the last decade only bettered in 2005/06.

However, in 2011/12 it jumped to 95 incidents. Durban North was also the tenth worst hit suburb for household burglary.

Yesterday Kwadukuza SAPS arrested two men aged between 26 and 45 years for the robbery of Market Health Care in the Kwadukuza CBD.

According to the police, the five suspects were found in possession of an unlicensed 9mm pistol and live ammunition.

Last week an off-duty constable took a bullet in the stomach and shot dead a suspect after he had chased five robbers fleeing from Isipingo business Eastcoast Engineering.

It was the second time in a week that the robbers hit this business. Owner Paulo Mendez said the second time five armed men walked in and robbed those present of valuables including money, wallets, cellphones and other personal belongings.

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