WATCH | Police pounce on man after snatching phone in brazen theft
A cunning scheme by a thieving gang had Cape Town residents despairing for an unknown victim who was caught on camera helplessly attempting to recover his snatched cellphone.
But on Thursday, the alleged thieves found themselves in the clutches of the Cape Town metro police's plainclothes unit. They were arrested after officers followed up on video evidence taken from social media posts.
The video shows the driver of a grey Nissan SUV sitting in traffic with the window open. A man runs up to him and grabs his phone off his lap.
The driver gets out to try to catch the suspect but is distracted by two or three other men. A taxi also blocks the driver's path, and it appears the taxi is part of the plot.
The driver then gets back into his vehicle and tries to chase after the suspect, but to no avail.
A second video shows the suspect running back to where the crime took place and, along with his associates, gets into the taxi which speeds off with all the suspects inside.
The incident took place on the corner of Halt and Voortrekker roads on Wednesday.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith submitted the video to the public emergency communications centre via an experimental WhatsApp communications tool being developed by the city.
"After the video was submitted to our public emergency communications centre by me and then on to law enforcement, the plain clothes unit followed up and managed to find the suspect and arrest him, along with other persons of interest," said Smith.
The stolen cellphone was also recovered during the arrest.
The victim of the theft was located in Stellenbosch on Thursday and Smith said he was on his way to Goodwood police station to lay a charge.
"I want to congratulate law enforcement and the plainclothes unit in being innovative and creative in tracking down the offender and effecting the arrest," he said.
"Thank you to the media and the public who helped us find the victim. This means one less group of criminals who can prey on innocent members of the public."