With the holiday season fast approaching, police, community watch groups and security companies are gearing up for a spike in crime, especially housebreaking and robbery.
Last week, The Witness reported on two violent house robberies in Pietermaritzburg, one where an elderly Wembley couple and their son were attacked and another where a partially disabled Hayfields man was badly beaten and robbed at gunpoint.
Security groups and police warned on Sunday that they fully expect crime to increase over the holiday season and would be increasing patrols in residential areas to try and counteract this.
Pietermaritzburg Red Alert operations manager Avinash Sukai said they would be increasing patrols and staff on the ground. But he urged people to ensure their alarm and panic systems are working “because although patrols create a visible presence, they do not necessarily prevent robberies”.
“We want to make sure all angles are covered and that if criminals gain entrance into a house, they will not be able to disarm the alarm by cutting a single wire.”
He said patrols and security in the Hayfields and Scottsville areas would be increased as they had seen a spike in crime, such as break-ins and thieves stealing items from people’s yards.
Townhill Community Policing Forum (CPF) chair Megan Nicol said the increase in crime during the festive season was a trend across the country and the CPF along with police and various private security companies are “gearing up by increasing patrols and making sure people are aware” of who to call during an emergency, and “what to do and what not to do” during the event of a house robbery.
“The most vulnerable are those living on the outskirts of the city near forests,” she said.
She added that people’s fears about a spike in crime during this time of the year were not unfounded.
“Criminals want a Christmas too and they are aware people are on holiday and homes are vacant.
“They may think this means patrols will decrease but this is not the case.”
Magma Security director Shaheen Suleiman said they too are increasing visibility. “We have more patrols and more vehicles on the road,” he said.
But what can you do to prevent intruders from entering your home?
A Facebook comment on The Witness Facebook page on Sunday by Pietermaritzburg resident Jesse Feldman warned residents not to advertise what they own or have recently bought.
“Do not throw empty boxes on the road with your rubbish as this tells the criminals what you have bought. Only take the gifts out your car when you are in your garage.”
Another Facebook comment warned the public to be vigilant at all times.
“I’ve installed infrared beams around my house and driveway so a criminal will trigger the alarm 10 metres before reaching a window or door,” posted Monsignor Warren. “If you see suspicious looking people lurking about, call your security company.
“Don’t be predictable in your movements. Criminals prey on complacency and carelessness.
“You can stay a step ahead by just anticipating crime every day and you’ll know what not to do,” said Warren.
Police across the city said they are taking a “zero tolerance strategy” to crime this festive season and urged the community to report suspicious-looking people and to be vigilant.
Justin Naidoo of Track and Trace K9 Unit highlighted the trend in some areas of getting a security company to guard just a few roads. His company guards a small area in the Townhill policing area.
“With armed response, there is often a delay of seven to 10 minutes in getting to the home. With a company operating in just a few roads and standing off there, they can be there in a minute in case of an emergency. The presence of the company in the area is also a deterrent and the people on duty get to know who should be in the area and who shouldn’t.”
Naidoo warned that criminals often drove smart cars and were well dressed and were mistaken for residents.
Walungisa Protection Services director Imraan Osman said security companies were often not paid to patrol and were paid only for the alarm system and emergency responses.
He said his team did 24-hour patrols of various roads and he believes areas without patrols are vulnerable.
He said crime is on the increase and just as security companies patrol, criminals monitored areas.
He said they had been patrolling and had seen a positive impact and a drop in crime on the roads they patrolled.
“It is something that should be adopted everywhere,” said Osman.
Mountain Rise police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joshua Maistry urged residents to be “fully aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity to the police.”
He added that people should be aware of hiring domestic workers and labourers without prior screening or documentation.
He said police had seen domestic workers and labourers working hand-in-hand with criminals time and time again, with many home invasions in the area believed to be “inside jobs”.