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14 May 2012 at 22:13 - Posted by Anonymous

Muggers unleash terror in Pretoria CBD


The Pretoria CBD is under siege from criminals who grab bags, steal cellphones and put the fear of the devil into the lives of street vendors – who are powerless to act in the face of the relentless onslaught by these thugs.

People walking along some of the inner-city’s busiest streets – Bloed, Boom, Johannes Ramok-hoase (Proes) and Struben – say it has become common for people to get robbed in broad daylight and in the evenings.

The street vendors, who spend entire days along those streets, claim that the area has become a haven for these petty criminals.

A maize vendor, whose days are spent daily walking up and down these streets, said the criminals have become cunning.

They had a way of knowing well in advance about the appearance of police officers, and so had time to hide their loot.

Asking to remain anonymous, one vendor said: “They know all the nooks and crannies, and the shops they can either get into and hide or just leave what they have stolen until the officers pass.”

Others on the streets said the criminals were able to blend in with the throngs that walk those pavements all day.

Fruit seller Sizwe Makabo said: “We see them rushing past us with handbags and other packages that have evidently been snatched.

“We see them quickly pick through them for valuables and ditch the rest anywhere, in quick time,” she said.

Victims and bystanders feel that the police are not doing enough to curb this crime.

They accuse police of turning a blind eye to the criminals, often in return for bribes.

They allege that the better-known criminals have become friends with the law enforcers.

And the newer criminals are required to pay bribes to be left alone by the police.

“Often people report the crime, the police come around and the muggers are identified.

“They are taken away by the police, but will be back on the street in no time,” a street hair dresser said.

But the police denied letting criminals go free, and said they arrested and kept in custody all who had committed crimes.

“If a crime is reported, we respond and where necessary we take people in for questioning,” provincial communications spokeswoman Captain Pinky Tsinyane said.

“If no links to the reported crime are found, we let them go free,” she added.

Police cannot arrest people and keep them in custody without evidence. The problem could be exacerbated by the failure of victims to report crime, she said.

“People will look on and only talk about what they know when someone else talks about it.

“This is wrong because we can arrest them for being accessories to the crime,” she said.

The police, she said, also had to be careful when handling information on criminal activities, because it was sometimes driven by grudges in personal business environments.

A group of job seekers, who wait near E’skai Mphahlele (DF Malan Drive), said they saw criminals committing a crime, then running for refuge into stalls in that area.

“The criminals snatch handbags from passing cars and pedestrians, and dodge between the stalls to avoid arrest,” a man identified only as Lucky said.

He and the others agreed that the men were dangerous and all they could do was watch. “It is sad that innocent people have to go through this,” vendor Tsidi said.

She said nothing ever came of reports to the police about the crime, so it has become part of their daily lives.

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