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WATCH | Crime under lockdown: business burglar shows his slippery moves

One week into lockdown and most security companies are as busy as ever.
One week into lockdown and most security companies are as busy as ever.
Image: 123RF/ scanrail

It’s been almost a week since the coronavirus lockdown and while some security companies say criminals appear to be staying home, others report there is more crime.

Shaun Stelzer of Viking Protection Services in Gauteng said there “definitely has not been a decline in crime — I would say that there has been an increase”. 

“We actually made an arrest two days ago at businesses and they are actually house-robbing people while they are inside their homes. We have had a couple of those. We specialise in canine protection. I have deployed more canines than normal and there are more call-outs. People are taking more chances because no-one is at businesses,” he said.

A suspect caught by the company breaking into a business in Cullinan earlier this week demonstrated, in the video below, how he managed to sneak inside.

Call centres in Cape Town have observed a spike in domestic and sexual violence incidents being reported, said the city's mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith.

Stelzer has observed an increase in requests for quotations for business and home security.

“We had new sites in Zeerust, Cullinan, Denver and other parts of Johannesburg and also Krugersdorp. I have sent out more quotations in this period of time than I have in a while on home security reaction [and] CCTV cameras,” he said.

Fidelity on the other hand had not observed a sharp rise in crime. National marketing and communications manager Charnel Hattingh said teams had “continued to patrol and respond to any emergencies as normal”.

“We have provided them with personal protective equipment to reduce risk during this time and implemented a virtual agent system for our customers to cancel any false alarms, further reducing physical interaction with our officers,” she said.

“The company has seen a decline in the number of activities reported, which we believe is due to the lockdown and increased police and SANDF presence. However, our teams continue to proactively patrol the streets.”

Hatting said they had not seen an increase in business crimes.

“We have seen a marked decline in home alarm installations — our teams cannot access homes at this time but we are still receiving requests for service. However, our officers and existing customers have not been affected by the lockdown,” she said.

Fidelity's greatest challenge during lockdown has been minimising staff to accommodate the lockdown rules and regulations.

“The greatest challenge we faced was moving to a remote working environment for our back-office staff. However, we navigated this challenge well and our back office and support teams continue to work remotely. Our officers, call centre agents and other field staff have continued to report for duty as normal,” added Hatting.

Motshoko Security faced a different set of challenges. Owner Bhekumzi Mtshoko said some clients were withholding payments during the lockdown.

“Some were meant to pay on the 29th but to date those payments have not come through. While they could say that it’s because our office premises are closed, there are people who usually make EFT transfers,” he said.

Out on the streets, Mtshoko said it was quieter than usual.

“We are patrolling especially around businesses but it has been quiet. At some business premises we had to increase the number of security guards we deploy, as per the client's request, but we have not had any incidents.”

Mtshoko said guards continued to be visible on the streets.

The Cape Town Central Improvement District (CCID) said earlier in the week there had been 16 suspects arrested since the weekend. Bob’s Bar, Harrington’s, Revelas Fisheries and Liny’s Baby shop were hit during the crime spree.

CCID safety and security manager Mo Hendricks said the crimes were sporadic and opportunistic. Thieves stole R9,000 worth of booze from Bob's Bar. Two suspects were arrested.

“There is an increase in sexual offences, rape, gender-based and domestic violence. When people are cooped up in their houses, it's common that some of them can fall victim of such crimes,” said Smith.

“Many of the crime categories are down because there’s a reduced movement of people. Criminals are targeting people at ATMs ... Sassa recipients are also a target.”

Smith, in an earlier statement, called on the government to review its stance on the deployment of neighbourhood watches in the city.

“We are also calling for the national government to reconsider their stance on the deployment of the neighbourhood watches. There are ... well-trained neighbourhood watches in Cape Town who would be able to continue doing the good work they do every day in fighting crime, as we have already seen criminals changing their modus operandi to take advantage of the lockdown,” he said.

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