Ire over smash-and-grabs

The traffic lights at Military Road is a smash-and-grab hot spot.

Motorists travelling along Prince George Drive have been advised to stay alert when passing by the intersection at Military Road.

For the past five years residents have called on the City of Cape Town and police to assist with ongoing smash-and-grabs and robberies, at the notorious intersection (“Crime hot spots identified”, Southern Mail, May 21, 2014).

The traffic lights at the intersections of Capricorn Boulevard, Vrygrond Avenue and Military Road along Prince George Drive have been out for several weeks, causing traffic congestion but also putting motorists at risk because theintersectionautomatically becomes a stop-and-go and slows down traffic, making motorists easy targets for robbers.

Clive Jacobs, a community worker, said the smash-and-grabs and robberies have increased dramatically and fears it will lead to fatalities if nothing is done to address the issue.

“The ongoing smash-and-
grabs and robberies on motorists, foreigners, delivery vans and school pupils by a group of
locals have become very out of control.

“Steenberg police has showed very little interest and asked the communities and victims to lay criminal cases but the victims fear for their lives and rather speed off. I feel justice can be served if law enforcement agencies take note of these negative acts. It is getting out of control and the community and children are at risk,” he said.

Mr Jacobs suspects the criminals who target motorists and pedestrians deliberately break and burn the traffic light boxes to slow down motorists so they are easier targets.

Shana Fife, a mother of three, was driving through the Military Road intersection on Wednesday November 20, at about 8.30am, when she was robbed.

Ms Fife said a man came to her passenger side window that was half way open and asked her for a lift.

“I felt very unsafe and politely told him that I can’t because I’m afraid to drive alone with a man that I don’t know. He got upset and started swearing, jumped through the half open window and grabbed my phone and cards.

“I felt terrified. He then got out of the car and walked off into Lavender Hill to a group of guys waiting for him,” she said.

Ms Fife went to Muizenberg police to report the incident but said her case was not taken very seriously.

“I explained everything to the constable at the front desk and he said there’s nothing he can do and that I need to block my own phone,” she said.

Eventually, after speaking to more officers, she was able to make a statement.

Ms Fife said the traffic lights being defective made her and other women a target.

“I was told that these criminals are damaging the robots and they are specifically targeting women.”

Community worker and activist Lucinda Evans concurred and said women are most at risk at the intersection.

“The vehicles of one of our activist friends, on her way to take nappies for a project that helps mothers and babies, was smashed and the nappies and clothes were stolen. This is utterly unacceptable and disgusting. The criminals are brazen and violent.

“This intersection has become a crime opportunity with this traffic light being out more than four weeks. The festive season is coming with increased traffic so how long will it take and how many more women will be victims at this intersection?”

Felicity Purchase, the City’s maycoral committee member for transport, said they are aware of the traffic lights being out.

“We are aware of the three
signals that are out of order after being damaged during protest action.

“The traffic light at Vrygrond Avenue was damaged for the second time, about a week after we repaired it. Both intersections have had minor repairs done this year due to vandalism. Thus, each intersection has received minor repairs once this year following protests. Furthermore, Vrygrond Avenue has received one major repair.”

She added that the City will repair all three when the area is calm and safe for work.

JP Smith, the City’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, advised resi-
dents to remain vigilant when stopping at any intersection, whether it is deemed a hot spot or not.

“Many crimes are opportunistic in nature, and motorists
need to be mindful of that,” he said.

Steenberg police spokesperson, Sergeant Wesley Twigg, said there had been a drastic increase in cases of smash-and-grabs and robberies at the intersection.

He also confirmed that the traffic lights were vandalised.

“Theft out of motor vehicle and street robberies is a con-
cern as people are walking with their cellphones in their hands and leaving valuable items
laying on car seats. As a result we have increased patrols at the
intersection,” said Sergeant Twigg.

“People must ensure that their valuables are placed in their car boots and when they stand at the intersection they must be aware of their surroundings. Always be alert at intersections and be on the lookout for people loitering around you or for any sudden activity around your car.”

Tips to reduce the risk of falling victim to crimes such as smash-and-grab incidents include:

* Keep valuables out of sight in the boot or underneath the seat.

* Lock all your doors, and close all windows

* When approaching a red traffic light at night, slow down so that you will only reach the crossing when the light has already turned green. Be cautious, be
vigilant, and know your surroundings

* Be wary of people loitering about at traffic lights or intersections. They may be innocent, but perpetrators usually mix with them while waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Be alert, and do not take pamphlets from or get into discussions with vendors at intersections

* Businesses must ensure canopies of delivery vehicles are locked and if items are stored on an open bakkie and cannot be secured, then choose a different route.

* When standing in a queue, do not park too close to the vehicle in front of you. Leave enough room to react if required.