Beware ‘snatchers’

2018-02-20 06:00

A new crime trend in the CBD has seen necklaces being snatched from unsuspecting pedestrians’ necks.

The Cape Town Central Community Policing Forum (CPF) last week released an alert, warning of an increase in the arrest of “chain snatchers” operating within the CBD.

CPF chairperson Marc Truss says that there is no set modus operandi­.

“They either follow the unsuspecting victim, snatch [the chain] and run off, approach [the victim] for assistance and snatch it, [or grab the [victim] from behind,” he says.

The thieves may pass by or the victim may be surrounded by a group of three or four thieves, Truss says.

Cape Town Central police spokesperson Captain Ezra October says people waiting for taxis or commuters waiting at a traffic intersection are also often targeted.

He says the snatching of jewellery and cellphones occurs almost daily. Several incidents have taken place, Truss says, and the majority of the suspects are minors.

“The majority of these chain snatchers are minors and are destitute and left to survive – no schooling, no family – therefore it is very difficult to process them for a conviction when they are apprehended,” he says.

“Often victims do not want to open a case when they see 12-year-olds with tears in their eyes – they are just happy to have received the valuables back.”

In addition, the police understand there is a market for gold chains which can be melted and remanufactured for new jewellery.

“According to police reports suspects are day strollers in groups of three to four men operating. We have had numerous daily successes through our integrated crime prevention operations,” Ocotber says.

The incidents have occurred mainly in the CBD, but there have also been reports from Strand Street, Somerset Road in Green Point, Kloof and Orange streets.

To prevent falling prey to this type of crime, Truss suggests pedestrian remain aware of their surroundings.

“Keep items of value away from the prying eyes as you walk around in the city – keep these items well hidden. Be on your guard at all times. Don’t think for one moment that an innocent-looking young kid has no ulterior motives.”

October adds: “Be alert of people loitering at intersections. Do not wear expensive jewellery or valuables. Avoid using your cellphone while on the move and do not use your head phones on the street – they may distract you. Watch out for sudden activity or a commotion as it may distract you. Pay attention to your instincts.”

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