A small gang of youths, and two people masquerading as a couple, have committed a slew of muggings along the St James catwalk and Muizenberg beach.
There have been four attacks and robberies officially reported on the catwalk since December 2016, and on June 27 a German tourist was viciously hit on the head with a hammer during the incident. The modus operandi of the “couple” is to pretend to be kissing or watching the sea, and when their selected victim passes them, they attack.
The German tourist was rushed to hospital to receive treatment.
Captain Stephen Knapp of Muizenberg SAPS said that a man has been arrested in connection with the catwalk incidents.
He said the suspects involved with the robberies on the beach appear to be three to five young men armed with knives.
“Muizenberg SAPS have increased visibility in the affected areas, but are hampered by the vastness of the terrain in which these robberies occur,” he said. “We therefore appeal to the community to be vigilant when walking on the beach or catwalk and would also like to encourage the community to report all cases of robbery.”
Lack of reporting of these incidents becomes a problem when suspects are arrested, because if there are no cases lodged, the evidence against them is not sufficient.
On a single Muizenberg social site there are lists of people reporting muggings, and each online report elicits a list of angry or disheartened comments.
If these incidents are not officially registered, then they cannot be counted – and if they are not counted, the already limited policing resources will be placed where the numbers are recorded.
Everyone who experiences a mugging or attempted mugging is urged to report it to Muizenberg SAPS immediately.
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The City is aware of the problem. Mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, JP Smith said: “Law Enforcement has stationed officers at the St James beach office to patrol this area on a daily basis. We will also be doing random patrols to try and help the South African Police Service catch these muggers. However, this is a temporary intervention as we cannot sustain it with our limited manpower.”
One of the woman most recently mugged shared her story with the False Bay Echo. She said she was mugged at Muizenberg Beach, about 1km from Sunrise Circle. She described three youngsters, same build, maybe 16 or 17 years old. “They singled me out (we were three women) because I had a bag. They all had knives and tried to stab me when I tried to run away. They cut the bag off my shoulder and left through the dunes and passed the road and disappeared on the other side,” she said.
Her name is known to the False Bay Echo and the police but she wanted to remain anonymous. The woman said: “I am busy running around for bank cards, to keep my cell number, get new house keys and many more things. I lost quite a bit of cash which I withdrew before the walk and received an amount from a friend whom I had lent money to, when I ran into him unexpectedly. I have been at that beach many times with dog-owners as it is the only place where dogs are allowed off the leash.”
She has opened a case at Muizenberg police station and has to go and look at photographs. “My feeling after hearing many theories is: these guys were mainly after tourists. They specialise in this because tourists go home after the incident, and so there won’t be a court case. I went to this beach walk with two German ladies and two far-too-friendly dogs. These guys must have watched us and heard us speaking a foreign language,” she said.
Her advice, borne of experience, is not to take valuables to the beach. “I usually don’t, but here I have not been careful enough, also didn’t want to leave my bag in the car. It will take time to recover from this. I can’t really focus and concentrate on work yet. I also think people should walk in this area in masses and not avoid it and leave it for the monsters to take over. Police, law enforcement and neighbourhood watches should be visible there,” she said.
Captain Knapp provided some safety hints: Always try to walk in a group
When walking, do not talk on your cellphone
Do not display jewellery
Be observant and take note of your surroundings
Be wary of loitering strangers
Attempt to walk in well lit places after dark and avoid open fields/secluded areas When traveling on a train, be especially wary when the train is departing and guard your valuables
Be especially vigilant during peak times
Keep emergency numbers handy and note descriptions of suspicious persons when alerting the police
Trust your instinct and avoid talking to strangers
Safety hints for beach goers:
Never leave your possessions unattended.
Do not leave your motor vehicle keys unattended.
Report any suspicious characters to the police and ensure that you memorise a complete description of the suspect/s.
Do not leave children unattended and always keep a watchful eye on them.
Pay heed to lifeguard instructions.
Remember that alcohol and other glass bottles/containers are not allowed on the beach.