Police say they suspect a syndicate is behind a spate of robberies that have hit stores in and around Cathcart Road in Komani recently.
Komani businesses in the main road had been the victims of burglaries for months, with some stores being repeatedly burgled.
Police spokesperson captain Lariane Jonker said an ongoing police investigation was underway about burglaries. “There is a syndicate with suspects who have been arrested and are still in custody. The case is under investigation. Four arrests were made during April, 10 in May and three in June.”
Jonker said while there had been an increase during the lockdown they did not suspect the robberies were caused by it. “There is generally an increase in break-ins but it is not necessarily because of the lockdown. Some of the reasons we have identified include the fact that street lights are not working, a primary crime prevention measure, and that part of town is dark. Load shedding has also caused crime to escalate. Perpetrators commit crimes knowing that alarms are not working during load shedding times.”
Distressed business owners told The Rep they felt targeted, with some of them resorting to sleeping in their premises. Owner of Build Up Hardware, Aslam Muhammad, said in all of the time he had been operating in Komani he had never experienced anything like this.
“I have been in Komani for close to 20 years. This is the first time we have experienced this. We used to only have burglar bars, but now we have shutters and yet they still manage to get in. I have three stores in this building and they have all been broken into. They come through the roof. They smash the windows. It is really bad.
“They keep coming back. We installed a camera and got security, but that did not stop them. Three of the shops have been broken into, all in the space of the past three months. We now sleep in the shop because we have no certainty if they will come back again,” said Muhammad.
Style Kingz owner, Ahmed Ali, said there was an attempt to break into his store on Sunday. It would have been the second time the store was robbed.
“The first time they came, they made holes on the roof. Before that they tried to smash the glass and then the shutters. I was notified by the security response team that the alarm had gone off. After searching we found them in the roof,” said Ali.
Some of the shops recently hit in Cathcart Road include Tony’s, Louis Sport, Rex Shoes and Cecil Printers. While Joley Shoes, Spec Savers and King Pie have experienced burglaries and attempted burglaries in the past six months.
While the burglaries have not shown a high level of sophistication, the store owners say police response has been underwhelming.
“It is getting a whole lot worse. It is supposed to be lockdown, but people are walking around. Police have not even come to take fingerprints yet,” said Tony’s owner Noel Sahd. His store has been hit twice in the past three months.
Muhammad said fingerprints had yet to be taken from his hardware store as well. He had provided police with video evidence showing the suspects, yet no arrests had been made. Ali of Style Kingz said he had not had a word from police since the suspects were apprehended in his store more than a month ago.