2007-04-08 : Citizens take fight to criminals

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2007-04-08 : Citizens take fight to criminals

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2007-04-11 08:07

Citizens take fight to criminals


08 April 2007
Henriëtte Geldenhuys

Gauteng residents are now doing their own police work

RESIDENTS of some of Joburg’s richest suburbs are fed up with asking police
to catch criminals — so they are arresting them themselves.

Following recent appeals to help fight crime by President Thabo Mbeki,
Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula and Police Commissioner Jackie
Selebi, residents of Morningside, Midrand, Norwood and Houghton have nabbed
those they say were terrorising their neighbourhoods.

In Morningside, the Marikana Residents’ Association and security firm
Special Armed Services conducted an operation that ended the reign of armed
robbers who they say have targeted their boomed area for months.

Association chairman Dave Barnes said residents got their “own

“We worked out that there were two or three robbers jumping over walls and
gates, breaking windows and robbing residents at knife- or gunpoint ,” he

“They used bolt-cutters to cut fences.”

The group called police to help them search a nearby green belt, but were
told the police could not come.

So Barnes and five neighbours met on his patio for “a strategic planning
session” and at midnight on February 26 they grabbed sticks, cable ties and

“Within 45 minutes, we had arrested a suspect at his nest and found
bolt-cutters and pliers. Unfortunately, a second suspect ran away,” Barnes

“I was the only resident armed with a 9mm pistol, but I didn’t use it. I
caught him myself and stood on his neck to hold him down before we bound him
with cable ties.”

The suspect, 36-year-old Mozambican Alberto Zitha, was handed to police and
has appeared in court. He was granted R1000 bail but could not pay and is
still in custody.

Barnes admitted that what he and his neighbours had done was “risky”.

“But there hasn’t been a single incident since,” he said. “We were desperate
as there was a robbery every night. Police are reactive and that’s a waste
of time. ”

In Orange Grove last month, members of the Norwood community policing forum
cleared an abandoned 7th Street basement inhabited by prostitutes. Netcare
paramedics took neglected babies away for treatment.

Residents decided not to call in police help.

“We believe police were among those using the services of the prostitutes,
so we couldn’t have them there,” a resident said.

CPF member Roger Chadwick said it was the first time members had acted on
their own: “It was an amazing success and showed how community action can

Midrand resident Rod Robsen chased telephone cable thieves by himself this
week, but they got away.

Asked why he had not called the police, he said: “What for? There’s nothing
the police can do.”

Robsen said other Midrand residents had recently caught a robber.

Last week in Houghton, robbers broke into a 17th Avenue house and the
homeowner overpowered one man and made a citizen’s arrest.

Joburg police spokesman Sanku Tsunke said police applauded “this kind of
community action”.

“He did very well. Everyone is entitled to make a citizen’s arrest.”

However, Gauteng police spokesman Govindsamy Mariemuthoo asked residents
“not to lose faith in the police”.

“We call upon residents to assist us. Citizens can make arrests, but it can
be dangerous,” he warned.

Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said:
“Residents are becoming increasingly frustrated with what they see as
ineffective police. They give vent to this by getting involved themselves.”
What have YOU done for YOUR rights today?
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