The business community in the broader Athlone, Lansdowne and Rondebosch areas fear they have become easy targets for criminals. This concern follows after three attacks on businesses and owners in the last week.
On Saturday, the wife of the owner of Jimmy’s Service Station was shot and killed in an armed robbery at their home in Crawford. On Monday, MA Distributors in Hadji Ebrahim Crescent was arm robbed, followed by a break-in at The Lounge on Kromboom restaurant in Crawford on Friday morning.
Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson in Athlone, Aziza Kannemeyer said they have been inundated with complaints from business people within the Athlone area but equally from ordinary residents.
“We are confronted with a desperate attempt for people to get their hands on money and that usually means that they pick easy targets. People who close their businesses late at night or business people are being watched, followed and then attacked,” said Kannemeyer.
She added that these crimes can no longer be classified “as just robberies”, as trends show that people are being physically harmed and in worse cases, killed.
As the CPF, they joined the neighbourhood watches of the Athlone area and planned a march earlier this year. At the march, they demanded that provincial and even national government must get involved. But she emphasised that the first line of safety must be the police service and any other law enforcement agency.
“That is our biggest headache… we feel that as the CPF not enough money is being spent in the budget to allocate the necessary personnel to the high crime areas,” added Kannemeyer.
Community crime fighter Hanif Loonat warned communities that the economic situation of the country contributes to crime directly.
“People are becoming brazen and desperate in making sure that they get what they want and these criminals are using any means. They are even prepared to kill to make sure that they get what they want,” said Loonat.
People need to protect themselves and be very careful with how they carry money.
“Robbers clearly knew what they want and people must be very careful as to who they trust.”
Amid reports of a syndicate known as the ‘crowbar gang’ targeting business owners, Loonat said he had warned the Western Cape police and the local community policing forums about the crowbar syndicate, when he was a member of the CPF in Johannesburg.
“I myself personally arrested a crowbar gang where I took them on single handily and had three of them arrested. They were all successfully sentenced at the Benoni court,” said Loonat.
He added that he knew at that time the syndicate was on its way to Cape Town and had warned authorities but was not taken seriously.
“There is more than one syndicate as they feed off each other and move along to make bigger cliques. There are sometimes two or three syndicates doing the same kind of crimes.” VOC (Imogen Vollenhoven)