Thefts soar in southern suburbs

Police have urged the public to not leave valuables like laptops, tablets and bags visible in their vehicles.

Thefts out of vehicles have skyrocketed in some parts of the southern suburbs, according to the latest police crime statistics.

The quarterly crime data, released by Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday June 3, showed a 22% jump in the country’s murder rate along with increases in rape and common assault, compared to the first three months of last year.

While the increase in violent crime is not mirrored in the southern suburbs (there was one murder in Rondebosch and Claremont and two in Pinelands and Woodstock and there were three rapes in Rondebosch, four in Woodstock and two in Mowbray), the data for some property-related crimes made for grim reading.

In Claremont, thefts out of vehicles almost doubled, from 119 to 228 cases, putting the precinct second in the province and among the top five in the country for the crime.

Claremont police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Marnus Fourie blamed this on the ten-fold increase in the suburb’s vagrant population. There had been 35 vagrants in the area before the pandemic compared to 350 now, he said.

“Many of the vagrants are drug users, and they sustain their habit by breaking into cars.”

The thieves used rocks to smash car windows or remote-jamming devices to prevent cars from locking, he said, urging people to not leave valuables in their vehicles and to check their vehicles were locked.

Commercial crime was up 44% from 77 to 111 cases, and Lieutenant Colonel Fourie said those cases related to online shopping and banking.

“If anyone does online shopping, they must verify that the items are from an authentic website, and when they do online banking, they must be careful when receiving texted messages from the bank. Rather go directly to the bank or call the police if you are unsure about the messages.”

In Mowbray, thefts out of vehicles more than doubled from 21 to 45 cases, and vehicle thefts increased from six to 17 cases. Common assaults increased from seven to 10 cases.

Mowbray Community Police Forum chairman Jonathan Hobday said: “The continuing decline in police-service delivery has markedly affected crime prevention. Police visibility is reduced, police reaction times are poor and crime detection is below par.

“The deteriorating economic situation is resulting in greater levels of poverty and desperation, stimulating crime patterns.”

In Woodstock, thefts out of vehicles dropped 26%, from 144 to 106 cases, but vehicle thefts increased by almost 88%, from 24 to 45 cases. Common assaults were up 84%, from 25 to 46 cases.

Woodstock police station commander Colonel Delvyn Matroos said more police had been deployed in crime hot spots, and they would work closely with neighbourhood watches and use CCTV cameras to curb vehicle thefts.

In Rondebosch, thefts of vehicles doubled from 11 to 22 cases, and thefts out of vehicles were up more than 60% from 48 to 77 cases.

In the Pinelands, burglaries increased from 37 to 50 cases, and vehicle theft increased from 11 to 14 cases. Thefts out of vehicles dropped from 60 to 50 cases.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis has accused Minister Cele of not doing enough to improve policing.

“To help make Cape Town safer, the City has passed a R5.4 billion safety budget this financial year, with funding for 150 more law enforcement officers this year alone, and R86 million for CCTV and new crime-fighting technology in 2022/2023,” he said.

Online shoppers should check that the goods they buy are from an authentic website, say police.