There have been four break-ins in the past month at the League of the Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) in Klip Road, Grassy Park.
The incidents have left Lofob residents traumatised and feeling more vulnerable than ever.
Two men, aged 18 and 19, were arrested on Saturday August 20, at about 1.55pm, thanks to the efforts of Philip Bam, spokesperson of the Grassy Park Community Police Forum (CPF), and former director at Lofob, after they were caught on camera entering the premises.
Residents protested at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Monday August 22 when the two men were suppose to have appeared on charges relating to trespassing and malicious damage to property.
Residents held up posters saying: “Justice fails us”, “No to crime”, “Stealing must fall”, “Blind can’t see”, “Stop the break-ins”, Stop trespassing the blind” and “Stop trying to steal from us.”
They were asked to leave the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court as they did not have permission to protest and moved to the Grassy Park police station. Police asked them to stop the protest but listened to their concerns.
Lofob spokesperson Heidi Volkwijn, said: “We told Captain Ashley Petersen that after burglaries police take statements but nothing ever goes further than that.”
While the two men had been due to appear in court on Monday, Lofob executive director Armand Bam said they didn’t. The case was again expected to come before the court yesterday, Tuesday August 23, and Lofob residents again went to protest there.
Ms Volkwijn said she has been involved at LOFOB for 21 years and had never felt so unsafe. “The residents are so vulnerable in this place. There are also senior citizens who wouldn’t be able to defend themselves when they are being robbed,” said Ms Volkwijn.
“There is a lack of respect for people with a disability. This is a place of service where the community are being taken care of. We teach our clients mobility, now if they are being threatened inside their place, they will be afraid to go outside,” she said.
Southern Mail watched CCTV footage captured on Saturday August 20 which showed the two men who were arrested on the Lofob premises.
The men, who had a dog with them, entered the premises through a gate which was unlocked. They walked towards the hostel’s entrance and seemed to be checking if there were people around or for an open door to get into the rooms.
In a Facebook post, Philip Bam noted: “At about 1pm today, we noticed on the security camera that a man with a dog was in the kitchen at Lofob. Another was seen in the backyard. When they were confronted, they claimed they came for water for the dog. But they ran out. I jumped into my car followed them and cornered them in Klip Road opposite the cemetery.”
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They claimed they were on the premises looking for water for the dog. I held them but one ran away. The second was held a little more securely but he also escaped into the cemetery. A police van passed by and I flagged them down to assist. We drove into the cemetery and found the two. The footage shows how they came in, checked all windows and doors at the back, went further into the yard, came back and attempted to break into the laundry. In the process they broke off the window stay. Footage shows it has been put into the back pack. They were arrested for trespassing and malicious damage to property. Attempted house break-in will also be added.”
Philip said he had also replaced a lock of another gate at LOFOB that same day after criminals had broken it at 8am but nothing had been taken from the premises.
Armand said on Thursday August 18, at 4am, two criminals used a crowbar to break the lock of the entrance door of the hostel.
The burglars then tried to open the bedroom doors in the women’s hostel.
They didn’t steal anything but two cleaners, who are not blind, were left traumatised as they hid in a cupboard when they heard the burglars trying to get into one of the women’s bedrooms where they were sleeping.
Warrant Officer Wynita Kleinsmith, spokesperson for Grassy Park police, confirmed the incident which was reported by a resident.
“According to the complainant she was asleep at about 4.10am on August 18, when she was woken up by a scratching noise at the door. She woke up her room mate and heard something in the next room. The complainant then phoned the police who arrived within minutes, but no one was found and nothing was taken.”
Armand said it will cost R6 000 to replace the door which was damaged.
On Friday August 12, two men found their way into the kitchen, through an open door, and snatched two cellphones, on the kitchen table and ran away, at about 6am.
Warrant Officer Kleinsmith confirmed the complainant reported that two cellphones were stolen.
And on Monday July 25, someone broke into one of the resident’s bedrooms. They climbed up a waterpipe leading to the resident’s bedroom, and broke a window to gain entry. They took takkies, a tape recorder and clothes.
Armand said they would be improving security at LOFOB by appointing night security guard.