While police are hesitant to take the four armed robberies at four different eateries within the space of three weeks in the southern suburbs as a sign of an emerging crime trend in the area, they are taking these kind of business robberies very seriously.
In addition to the two armed robberies at restaurants in Claremont – The Village Bicycle on 2nd Avenue on Sunday 11 April and Oblivion Bar & Kitchen in Chichester Road on Monday 26 April – two eateries and their patrons were also robbed at gunpoint in Durban Road in Mowbray.
These two incidents occurred at 18:15 on Sunday 11 April and at 20:00 on Sunday 18 April, respectively.
Jon Hobday, chair of the Mowbray Community Policing Forum (CPF), says Cape Town is notable for its excellent dining out facilities and this sort of criminal cancer is a serious menace to its cafe culture.
“Restaurateurs and patrons, as well as police and security providers, should be acutely aware of the threat and extra-vigilant and taking extra safety measures to thwart the malefactors,” he says.
Col David Malong, station commander at Mowbray Police Station, says it is too early to say whether the two armed robberies in Main Road, Mowbray, are possibly linked or committed by the same group.
Items stolen during the two Mowbray incidents include cash, liquor and cellphones.
“We do not want to speculate, but we are busy with the investigation,” Malong says, adding that they have responded by doing more frequent blue light patrols in the vicinity of where the incidents occurred and with information sharing with their CPF and neighbourhood watches.
Jane Chamberlin, public relations officer of the Claremont CPF, says it is concerning that two restaurant robberies took place in Claremont within a relatively short space of time.
Chamberlin says although the modus operandi of the two incidents in Claremont was apparently similar, Claremont police have confirmed there were no grounds on which to claim the two incidents were related, nor committed by the same perpetrators.
“It must be noted that both the police and the Claremont CPF are concerned about any reported robberies in the area, and take them seriously. However, I do not believe these two incidents warrant sensationalism around ‘a new crime trend’ targeting restaurants in our community,” Chamberlin says, adding that criminals operate everywhere and that residents need to be vigilant in any public space, not just in restaurants.
“Think twice before taking or wearing high-value items such as jewellery or cellphones, particularly when running, cycling or walking to the shops,” she advises.
According to Lt Col Marnus Fourie, head of visible policing at Claremont Police Station, Claremont had a marked decrease in business robberies last year, and a relatively quiet festive season.
He says they already have preventative measures in place and have increased police visibility on Friday nights, over weekends and in business hours.
“Maximum deployment of our resources will be during high crime times. This is part of a six-month plan to normalise and then stabilise crime, of which business robberies are always a priority,” he adds.
Jade Hanning, Western Cape general manager at Fidelity ADT, says they have raised recent robberies and shared their safety and security advice with all their residential and business clients in the area.
“Local businesses need to be able to operate in a safe environment, to help generate an income which boosts the local economy. This growth and prosperity is especially crucial as we try to rebound from the pandemic, and anything that jeopardises our area’s economic prospects is deeply concerning,” he says.
He states Fidelity ADT meets with local policing, law enforcement and community safety partners in the southern suburbs on a regular basis to discuss operational matters and local crime patterns. These meetings, he says, serve as a platform where they plan the most efficient responses to curtailing crime.
“All acts of crime or even attempts to commit a crime must be reported to the police so that we can work on accurate crime statistics and base our action on the best available information,” Hanning says.
Derek Bluck, chair of HarLyn Neighbourhood Watch, says Claremont police have taken mitigating steps and will be informing local restaurants how to handle such situations should they arise.
“If we do get information quick enough, we will provide eyes and ears to assist, but we will not try to apprehend criminals, especially if they are armed,” says Bluck.
He adds that this type of crime is very volatile and must be handled correctly.
“If I can offer any advice it will be, do not be a hero; a restaurant full of patrons will lead to an innocent person getting hurt,” Bluck says.
- Contact Claremont Police Station on 021 657 2250 and Mowbray Police Station on 021 680 9580.