Schools seen as soft targets during holidays after brazen hijacking

2014-07-09 00:00

A KLOOF mother hijacked while dropping her child at school yesterday exposed a potential new security threat for parents during school holidays.

Susan West was confronted by two men outside the Kloof Pre-Primary School at 7 am yesterday, and struck lightly on the face with a gun when she refused a demand to hand over her keys.

The hijackers later fired at search-and-rescue police who took up the chase. The Renault Sandero was later recovered in KwaDabeka when the men crashed the car.

Having dropped her five-year-old son safely inside for a club event, West (43) said she surprised herself by saying “No!” when the men emerged from behind a recycling bin and demanded her car and ring.

“It’s the school holidays, that’s why — normally there are neighbourhood guys watching the entrance,” she said.

“But I have to say everyone including the police were fantastic — SA CAN, the security company, total strangers. An amazing lady driving past drove in and got me in her car and away from the scene. And a gentleman driving past actually chased them.”

Kloof CPF chairperson Corné Broodryk said the hijackers “seem like opportunists” — especially since they’d hijacked a French car, which crime syndicates “don’t want”. But he was concerned that schools were seen as “soft targets”.

This follows school parking lot hijackings at two other elite upper highway pre-schools in the past 10 months — Small World and Jean’s Playglen. It is also the second hijacking in a month in Kloof, which had previously enjoyed a year of record-low crime following an active partnership between the CFP, SAPS, security companies and SA CAN.

Broodryk said neighbourhood watch patrollers typically stood near school entrances during drop-off and pick-up times, but school holidays had left casual school visitors more vulnerable.

Colleen Phillips, Kloof’s principal, said holiday period events at schools needed special security arrangements in future.

“That lady [Susan] was the first to arrive and no one else was around. I have asked the neighbourhood watch to start coming here from tomorrow during [holiday events] on the property.”

Phillips said community patrollers “unfortunately don’t often come in the mornings”, but that she hoped the incident might generate a new security schedule.

Jean Dearman, owner of Jean’s Playglen in Hillcrest, said: “Parents are most definitely concerned that they are vulnerable there. Mothers arriving with young kids have to unstrap children from car seats and gather bags for the children and their own bags, and there is no way mothers can take awareness of what’s around their cars.”

Dearman said the school had both cameras and a guard on site at all times, and encouraged both private security and the “fantastic” Westriding community watch to park nearby during drop-off time.

The hijacking of a Renault — and particularly West’s model — is so rare in SA that security experts and police were scratching their heads as to the motive.

Craig White, recoveries manager for Bidtrack, who joined the hunt for the hijackers yesterday, said: “Its strange to them, hijacking is their job and they know what they want.

“We don’t see makes like this hijacked. And if its a common target like Hilux or a [VW] Polo that’s hijacked, you know where to start looking for it, even if it doesn’t have a tracking device. But a Renault? No one knows where to start. Maybe someone needed spare parts.”

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