An eye on crime hotspot

2019-12-03 06:00
Crime Scene

Crime Scene

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A street map of Claremont pinned up on the wall of Lt Colonel Marnus Fourie’s office at Claremont police station shows a concentration of blue stars and dots in the Upper Claremont area.

The blue stars indicate incidents of theft of a vehicle while the dots represent theft out of motor vehicles.

According to Fourie, 12 crimes (residential burglaries, theft of motor vehicles and theft out of motor vehicles) have been reported in the area located directly behind Cavendish Square Mall in the past 28 days.

He says although the past two months’ stats on the number of thefts out of cars is pretty much on par with last year’s figures, the area is a known hotspot for theft out of or from a vehicle.

To avoid paying for parking at Cavendish Square, many motorists park their cars on the street in this area and then walk to the mall.

Fourie says he understands that people are trying to save money but, if you think about it, spending R13 on undercover parking now could save you from spending R4 000 on an insurance excess later.

“People assume that most of the cars being broken into belong to residents who live in the area, but we have found that most of the targeted vehicles are owned by people who shop or work in the area,” says Fourie.

He says, where possible, car owners should park their vehicles in an enclosed property as most thefts out of or from a vehicle are from cars parked on the street. And, most importantly, don’t leave anything valuable in your car.

“We can spend millions on manpower, police patrols and security, but as long as we are creating opportunities for criminals these type of crimes will continue. We have found that even those small car cellphone chargers, which retail for about R20, are enough incentive for criminals to break in,” says Fourie.

Col. Maree Louw, station commander at Claremont police station, says that these types of crimes can usually be traced back to drug users.

“These small and expensive items, such as laptops, cellphones and money, that are stolen from vehicles are easy to sell.”

She also says these crimes are being committed by people who live outside of Claremont. “There is a huge influx of cars daily from Khayelitsha and Hanover Park. They drive into Claremont, do surveillance, hit their target and then get out.”

Louw says licence plate recognition cameras have been helpful. Neighbourhood watch groups and security companies alert the police through WhatsApp if a suspicious vehicle is seen in a hotspot area.

However, she says criminals are now in the habit of regularly replacing their number plates with new ones. She says, just like the police, criminals have informants too.

“They use intelligence and implement strategies to get away with their crimes,” says Louw.

Claremont police station, in cooperation with Claremont community policing forum (CPF), has taken steps to address these crimes.

In the past month, police have made several arrests of persons in possession of dangerous weapons and implements that can reasonably be used to commit burglaries or theft out of and from motor vehicles.

Fourie says the maximum deployment of police officers and resources occur during 10:00 and 00:00.

“According to our crime statistics, 73% of all incidents happen in this time slot,” he says.

Besides Claremont police vehicles that patrol known hotspots, metro police, law enforcement and traffic police officers, who mainly patrol the Main Road, are also on alert for theft out of cars or residential burglaries. 

He says the support of active neighbourhood watch groups and private security companies in the area also play an important role in the prevention of crime.

Fourie encourages residents to become involved. 

“We need more street watchers – people who are not necessarily active but who serve as the police’s eyes and ears on the streets.”

He explains that the best street watchers are residents who are usually at home during the day and who are familiar with their environment – they know who should and shouldn’t be in the neighbourhood. 

“If they notice anyone suspicious in the area, they should immediately report it by dialling 10111,” says Fourie.

He also emphasises the importance of reporting all crimes to the police, including relatively small ones, for example, a broken window. 

“If we don’t know about a problem in an area, we can’t prioritise it.”

Fourie says crime tends to escalate. Criminals who commit small crimes usually move on to bigger ones. “At the moment, none of the thefts out of or from cars or of the residential burglaries reported had incidents of violence linked to them. We have to act now to prevent it from getting there.”

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