Volunteers prevent smash and grabs

Bonteheuwel volunteers patrol along Jakes Gerwel Drive to curb smash and grabs.

Volunteer crime fighters are helping to stop smash-and-grab robbers who prey on motorists along Jakes Gerwel Drive.

This is according to Ward 50 councillor Angus McKenzie.

The volunteers are equipped with two-way radios, bibs and bicycles and have been working with City Law Enforcement in Bonteheuwel since December, after several complaints about smash and grabs on Jakes Gerwel, especially around the Jakkalsvlei Avenue, Bluegum Road and N2 intersections.

“In just a short space of time, we realised the positive effect their presence had on Bonteheuwel – so much so, that we had one of the most safest festive seasons in the area,” Mr McKenzie said.

Bishop Lavis police spokesman Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi appealed to drivers and passengers to be more vigilant.

“The occupants of vehicles are irresponsible, as their belongings are visible in the vehicle, instead of locked in the boot,” he said. “So often you find that the driver or the passenger was busy on their phones when they were being attacked.”

Mr McKenzie accused SAPS of not making enough effort to patrol the area or support the volunteers, but Warrant Officer Swartbooi denied that. “SAPS vehicles are always encouraged to be visible in the indicated area,” he said. “This road is a droplet in relation to the area of responsibility, which is a gang area.

“As members of SAPS, we do not respond to allegations. SAPS members acknowledge these volunteers on the road because as a team we will be able to curb this criminal element.”

Police were doing their “level best” to follow up all leads and the public should report any incidents, he said.

Deborah Ruiters, who supervises the volunteers, said they had only had positive responses from motorists.

“Our work is appreciated. Some people buy us a cooldrink to thank us. We have made a huge impact already. When the suspected smash and grabbers spot us on the road, then they walk away. Yes, the work is dangerous, but we are passionate about what we do and we are glad to be able to make a difference,” Ms Ruiters said.

She also called on more people to volunteer for the safety of the community.