Residents live in fear of ‘lone prowler’

JOHN HARVEY

Formalised patrols by the Little Mowbray Neighbourhood Watch will soon be a regular sight on the suburb’s streets.

The popularity of a WhatsApp group established to monitor crime in the area has shown that a more formal structure was needed to counter incidents of house breaking and suspicious behaviour, neighbourhood watch co-ordinator Dave Siversten said.

“We have met with the SAPS, and are in the process of establishing how patrols can be organised. While previously interest had been lost in the neighbourhood watch, people are now far more aware of crime in the area.

“It is no good that we do patrols when the police are already doing their rounds – we need to be there when they can’t be.

“We are finding out all this information, and will start patrols in the next few weeks.”

Mr Siversten said many suspects were already known to police, but it was now a case of mobilising to catch the criminals.

The move comes as residents in the heart of Mowbray appear to be bearing the brunt of a fresh crime wave in the suburb.

While UCT has warned students of a spike in crime in the area, advising them to be vigilant, walk in groups in well-lit areas and be aware of their surroundings at all times, residents in Alexander Road say they have been targeted at least four times between Saturday April 3 and Sunday April 10.

The situation is so tense some residents are staying up all night, fearing the return of what they believe is a lone prowler.

Pensioner Elna Loubser, who has lived in the street for 34 years, has experienced two invasions of her property in the past month and has even taken to arming herself with a sharp weapon, which she keeps close by every evening.

A few years ago, Ms Loubser was the victim of a mugging outside her home, but said in all her time in Alexander Road she had never seen as many break-ins as there were currently.

“I keep this weapon with me now in case he comes back,” she said.

Her neighbours, Ian and Rowena Slatem, said they had had some sleepless nights due to interruptions by neighbours talking in the street, alarms in the night and police and ADT cars stopping and attending to complaints.

“In the early hours of Friday morning (April 8) our exterior kitchen sensor went off. We did not call ADT, as we thought it was a false alarm. A little while later, we woke up with the police in our street. The house on the opposite side of the road had called the SAPS as an intruder was shining his torch into a bedroom. We were awoken by her blowing her crime whistle.”

When the couple put their rubbish out, they found their scooter lying on its side and the internal side garden gate open. Shoe scuff marks on the wall showed how the intruder had escaped past the scooter, over the wall into the street.

“Then on Saturday, at 4.40am, we woke up with shouting in the street. In no time at all there were three cars there, SAPS, ADT and a taxi. The taxi driver had just been robbed in front of our neighbour’s house. There have been at least three other incidents where neighbours have been robbed in this small block in the past month or two.”

Ms Loubser suspects the same man is responsible for all the crimes.

“All these incidents have happened at about 3.30am. The first incident happened on March 6, but exactly a month later, on April 6, it happened again,” she said.

“I have a tenant in a little flat at the back, and I heard her screaming her head off. I immediately went outside and told her to come inside (the main house). She told me she woke up and saw something flashing outside. At first she thought it was lightning, but when she got up to look out the window she saw a man with a flashlight. He looked right at her before running away.”

Ms Loubser said her tenant described the man as being in his late 30s or 40s, and was well-dressed.

“He lost his shoes when he fled. They are a pair of pink Levis, if you can believe that,” she quipped.

“Our street is small, but we are being targeted all the time. We are only three houses here, but every night there is something else. There was one occasion that I also heard a car idling outside, so I don’t know if the suspect is using a getaway car.”

Mowbray Community Policing Forum chairperson Jonathan Hobday said there had been more reports of suspicious behaviour and burglaries in the area.

“I think a lot of it is to do with tik addicts looking for things to steal and sell,” Mr Hobday said. “Crime is bubbling over. While it’s not violent in nature, it’s definitely there.”

Police spokeswoman Captain Angie Latchman said crime analysis at SAPS Mowbray, shows no reported spike in burglaries in Alexander Road.

“However, crime preventions are an ongoing process in order to address crime and to get rid of the criminal elements in the area.

“The South African Police Service cannot on its own address crime; it requires the assistance of its community, in the form of neighbourhood watches, which leads to community policing.

“The SAPS also partners with other law enforcement agencies such as traffic, Metro police, security companies as well as the Groote Schuur CIDS, as we all have a common purpose and that is to create a safe and secure environment,” she said.

She cautioned residents to be vigilant and said Mowbray SAPS station commander Lieutenant Colonel Mayla Dyers assured the community that the precinct was extremely committed to the fight against crime and would ensure that every effort was made to keep the Mowbray community safe.

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