A gang of vicious armed robbers – undeterred by electric fences, security gates, vicious dogs or armed response units – has been terrorising families in upmarket suburbs in Durban, raiding 17 homes in 21 days.
Hardest hit have been the Highway area comprising Westville, Pinetown, Hillcrest, Kloof, Gillitts, Forest Hill, New Germany and Waterfall.
In several instances children had been held at gunpoint and teenage girls threatened with rape, according to private investigator, Brad Nathanson.
Dubbed the “Isuzu gang” because they are known to travel in a white Isuzu bakkie, the robbers also been operating with an older model Mercedes-Benz (W126) apparently stolen from Lillian Ngoyi (Windermere) Road last week.
“These thugs are part of a much bigger syndicate. They are very clear about what they want: electronic equipment, cash and jewellery,” he said.
“To ensure that the victims give them valuables, they resort to assaulting the adults and threatening their children. In all the incidents, the victims were bound with cable ties.”
KZN police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker, said police were looking at ways of deploying more resources in the area to combat the problem.
According to Darryn le Grange, managing director of Blue Security, there had been a dramatic increase in both contact (hijackings and house robberies) and non-contact crimes (theft) for March in these areas.
“The average over the past 10 months was 25 contact crimes a month,” he said. “This spiked to 36 in March. Non-contact crimes increased from an average of 267 to 357 over the same period.”
Le Grange said in most instances the robbers arrived at the targeted house in a vehicle.
“They derail the driveway gate, hold up the residents at gunpoint for about an hour or more and terrorise them into complying with their demands before fleeing with valuables, often in the victim’s vehicle.”
In a recent incident, a Gillitts couple and their daughter were terrorised by five armed robbers, who gained entry to the house through an open sliding door.
He said the three were made to lie on the floor while the suspects demanded valuables. “They were in the house for about an hour.
“They made off with a plasma TV set, jewellery, cash, foreign currency, cellphones, bank cards and identity documents.” Le Grange said the robbers bundled the stolen goods in a sheet and loaded them into the victim’s double-cab bakkie.
Nathanson said a blind Kloof father and his 17-year-old daughter were receiving counselling after an hour-long ordeal at the weekend.
He said the father was repeatedly assaulted with the butt of a gun while the daughter was made to strip naked.
“They repeatedly threatened to rape her if he did not co-operate with them. They dragged her across the house shouting and screaming,” he said. “They were merciless.”
He said the father alerted him to the robbery.
“When I got to the scene, it was a pathetic sight. The two of them were in really bad shape. It seemed like the robbers hit the wrong house,” Nathanson said. “The dad said he could hear them talking on the cellphone in English and Zulu. It seemed like they were taking orders from someone.
“He said they kept demanding a plasma television and Krugerrand coins.”
On Saturday, several adults and two children suffered a similar fate, Nathanson said.
He said they, too, were terrorised for over an hour while the robbers ransacked their house. A two-year-old had a gun at his head during the robbery.
Nathanson described the raiders as “fearless and ugly”.
“Nothing deters them. No electric fences, security gates, armed response of vicious dogs. They are a hard-hitting gang who will resort to killing if they have to.”
He said it was difficult to pin the gang down: “They are on top of everything. They even listen in on the police radio frequency... But, they will slip up and the cops will be there.”
Nathanson blamed the spike in house robberies on the disbanding of the SAPS’s organised crime unit at Cato Manor.
“They were tasked to investigate these cases and their network of informers resulted in many robberies being foiled.
“Since the unit was disbanded, the stats speak for themselves. A specialised unit needs to take charge before it gets any worse. People are living in fear in their own homes.”
Westville Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman, Kevin Harvey, said they were concerned about the increase.
“There appears to be two gangs operating in Westville. One is a well-organised gang that carefully plans the hit while the other appears to be more opportunistic. They drive around and strike when families are having functions or if they see an open door.”
He said while no one had been seriously injured during any of the robberies, there had been death threats.
“These gangs are merciless. We are appealing to residents not to resist.
“They will not hesitate to kill. Life is far more valuable than any possession.
“Let them take what they want and leave!”
MaryLou Giliam, secretary of the Kloof CPF, said a gang of about five was operating in the area and terrorising residents.
They were known to hit in the early evenings and followed the same modus operandi.
She confirmed several women had been threatened with rape during the robberies and that the robbers had pistol-whipped some victims.
If you see either of the vehicles mentioned in this article, report it to the SAPS immediately. If you notice any suspicious vehicles or people hanging around your street then phone your alarm company and/or the Police to come and investigate immediately! Rather safe than sorry!
PLEASE FORWARD TO RESIDENTS OF ALL AFFECTED AREAS.