Plumstead flats hit by spate of burglaries

John Rubidge and Dennis Barry in front of the garages where their tools and bicycles were stolen.

Dennis Barry could have cried when he opened his garage door to find it ransacked. All his power and hand tools, lovingly collected over a lifetime since his apprenticeship in joinery, were gone.

Since it happened, early in the morning two weeks ago, he keeps going to his garage at the Pine Dale block of flats, on the corner of Dessie and Main roads in Plumstead, to use a tool on maintenance work in the complex, only to realise it’s no longer there.

John Rubidge, who owns the garage next to Mr Barry’s, had three bicycles stolen shortly afterwards. He is very angry. He and his wife wake at the slightest sound. He says it’s the second time he has been robbed in six months. The insurance company have told him they will not cover his goods should it happen a third time.

The three bikes were locked together inside his double-padlocked garage. The thieves must have lifted them over his car, careful not to set off the alarm.

Twenty-six residents met in the foyer of the six-floor block on Sunday July 31 to discuss crime at the complex.

Mark Nieuwstadt, chairman of the body corporate, told the Bulletin there had been several burglaries at the flats as well as the garages, which are easier targets. He said they had put in extra security after a man with a knife mugged a resident at the block’s security gate.

Marilyn Champion said it had been 5.30am, in May last year, when a man held a knife to her throat and told her to drive into her garage. He took her handbag and closed the door leaving her in the dark.

Mr Nieuwstadt said the body corporate had installed an electric fence, security signage and sensor pads for cars. Now they are considering replacing the cameras, at a cost of R38 500, and installing beams, at a cost of R28 000. Both would be linked to the security firm’s control room. The security upgrades would be covered by a special levy over 22 months.

The downside with cameras, Mr Nieuwstadt said, was that they had to be positioned high and were useless if thieves wore balaclavas. Beams were also problematic as thieves smashed them and then returned a night or two later when they were still out of order.

He believes an onsite security guard, who can call for an immediate response from the security company and police, is the best option. One of the residents, Tommy Thompson, suggested installing electronic tags so the guard had to patrol the whole area.

Meanwhile, the insurance company has provided a security guard and residents have been asked to vote on making this permanent. At Irene Przygonski’s suggestion they have also set up a WhatsApp group.

Diep River police spokesman Warrant Officer Keith Chandler was unable to attend the meeting because he was on an undercover operation.

He told the Bulletin that gated communities and complexes were very difficult to police as SAPS don’t have access and their high walls, fences and gates ironically lent the intruder a degree of protection once they were inside.

“We’ve found that complexes are being targeted throughout the peninsula. We advise the residents to beef up their security with alarms, electrified fencing, a guard, but often it’s the simple things like closing the access pedestrian gate and waiting for the driveway gate to close properly before leaving; and use good quality padlocks. Also awareness, awareness, awareness,” he said.