Burglars caught red-handed

Zerilda Park Primary School in Seawinds was burgled last week.

Zerilda Park Primary School in Seawinds has once again been targeted by thieves but this time the criminals were caught in the act.

The school has been burgled and vandalised several times over the past few months.

In December classrooms
were trashed when criminals broke through security gates to steal taps, stationery and other items.

Basins and windows were broken and electrical cables were ripped out of the walls, leading to flooding in classrooms and bathrooms.

Last Wednesday, February 1, pupils, teachers and principal Lorna Engeldoe arrived at school to find police on the premises looking for suspects.

“I came to the school that morning and it was chaos. Teachers and pupils were traumatised and the foundation phase block, where the thieves were caught, had to be closed down because they were looking for another suspect,” said Ms Engeldoe.

“The entire school day was interrupted because teachers struggled to calm pupils down so the break-ins have a negative effect on the children’s learning,” she said.

One of the suspects who was arrested, an 18-year-old woman from Lavender Hill, is an ex-pupil of the school.

A 26-year-old man, who is believed to be the brother of the ex-pupil, was also arrested at the scene.

Muizenberg police confirmed the incident.

Police spokesperson Captain Stephen Knapp said officers responded to a complaint of a break-in at 6.20am.

“Warrant Officer Granville Arendse and Constable Jason Pieterse responded to the complaint and found an 18-year old with goods she was trying to steal,” said Captain Knapp.

It wasn’t long before the officers found another suspect hiding in the roof of one of the classrooms.

With the help of one of the police dogs, the other suspect was caught.

Both were charged with housebreaking and theft.

Ms Engeldoe appealed to the community not to buy stolen goods.

“When people buy stolen goods they are encouraging the thieves to keep stealing from schools and from our children. I ask that the community stand with us as teachers and take ownership because these are their children sitting in these school benches, their brothers and sisters that they are doing a disservice to,” said Ms Engeldoe.

Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Millicent Merton said it is important for communities to take ownership of the schools in their area and realise that they have an important role to play in protecting their community’s assets.

“The co-operation of the community is essential in order to combat vandalism and to create a safe school environment that promotes teaching and learning. We urge community members to be extra vigilant throughout the year and to immediately report any suspicious behaviour or activities that occur within the vicinity of their schools,” said Ms Merton.

Muizenberg station commander Colonel Ismail Daniels was pleased with the arrests and reiterated that schools should be protected by their communities and not damaged or broken into and urged the community to report any suspicious behaviour at these institutions.