Cops warn of spike in robberies

Four suspected robbers, one of whom is believed to be an Uber driver, are expected to plead guilty to charges of the possession of stolen property after they were caught in a vehicle that had been involved in at least four robberies in Sea Point and Cape Town last month.

The suspects, who are still in custody, will appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court later this month to enter into a plea bargain.

The investigating officer for the case, Detective Constable Mbeki Masangwuana, said on Friday October 20, that the suspects, in a silver Toyota Corolla, had been arrested by police on duty on the corner of Buitengracht and Bree streets.

“Cops on duty looked for the car after they received the complaint about the robbery on the radio.

“The group of men allegedly pass people in the road, threaten them with a knife and a toy gun, take their belongings and then jump in the car and speed off. The complainant had also been stabbed during the robbery.

He said the officers apprehended four suspects, aged between 23 and 27 years old. Among the items found were shoes, a watch and two laptops, a knife and a toy gun.

Detective Constable Masangwuana said it later emerged that the suspects and the car were linked to four other robberies – two in Sea Point and two in the city centre.

It was also said that the driver was registered to Uber, and that he had only registered the day before. However, Uber spokesperson Samantha Allenberg, said neither the driver nor the vehicle was registered with the Uber app.

“This has nothing to do with Uber, but we will connect with Cape Town Central police to find out why they think this driver or vehicle is registered with Uber,” she said.

“All our drivers are registered on our system, and only we have access to these details, so only we can confirm if a driver or vehicle is using our app.”

Cape Town Central police spokesperson, Captain Ezra October said police were concerned with the increase in the number of robberies in the precinct.

“We want to warn businesses and the public about robberies. Cape Town Central SAPS has been identified by the SAPS commissioner’s officer as a major contributor to robberies and theft out of motor vehicle in the province.”

Cape Town Central police’s head of violent crimes Captain Wynand Swart, said major concerns were street robberies and cellphone snatching.

“Lots of robberies happen on club nights. When people leave the clubs they check their cellphones or order the cab or call for their lift, their cellphone gets taken.

“There are a number of syndicates in Long Street, and in the area of Cubana in Somerset Road. Most robberies we find are with knives or guns, which are usually not real weapons.”

He said the police recently arrested two syndicates operating near Cubana.

“They had getaway vehicles stationed nearby and after they have snatched a phone, they jump into the vehicle and drive off.”

Captain Swart said during the day, the robberies are more opportunistic.

People with earphones in their ears are targeted, as well as people talking on their phones while walking in the streets.

There are lots of grab-and-runs being reported.

He said there were also groups targeting tourists, mostly snatching chains. “We want to ask tourists not to wear their jewellery out in the open.”

He advised people to be aware of, in particular, young boys, aged between 10 and 20 years old, operating in small groups.

“These boys, about 20 to 30 of them, come into the city centre through train and then split up to go about their spree.”

He said the boys were known to the officers at Cape Town Central SAPS and the Central City Improvement District guards, and were apprehended almost daily. However, he said, because they were juveniles, it was difficult to get them prosecuted.

“We urge the public to be more aware. If you walk in the streets, hide your cellphone, or walk into a shop if you need to answer the phone,” said Captain October.

“Also, when you wear your earphones, you don’t know what’s going on around you, so try not to use your earphones when walking in the streets.”