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21 June 2011 at 15:36 - Posted by Anonymous

Smash-and-grab gang hits CBD


Motorists and pedestrians in Pretorias inner city are being warned to be on the lookout for a gang of robbers and smash and grabbers operating at several intersections in the city. Picture: Handout/Supplied

Motorists and pedestrians in Pretoria’s inner city are being warned to be on the lookout for a gang of robbers and smash and grabbers operating at several intersections in the city.

The gang’s favourite spot at the moment seems to be the intersection of Andries and Proes streets. Other inner city hot spots are the municipal buildings in Pretorius Street and the intersections of Andries, Bloed and Boom streets, said Pretoria Central spokeswoman, Sergeant Ann Poortman.

Up to eight advocates who belong to the Pretoria Bar’s High Court Chambers in Vermeulen Street have fallen victim to these attacks. The gang seems to be especially active during the early morning peak hour – between 7am and 9am – when people are heading to their offices in the centre of town.

The latest victim is a young advocate who was crossing the Proes-Andries street intersection, on her way to chambers yesterday. A man pushed an object into her stomach and threatened to kill her if she did not hand all her belongings over to him, which she did.

General manager of the Bar, Deon Gericke, said the woman, who does not want to be identified, was extremely traumatised. She was on her way to write her pupillage exams, which she did, in spite of her ordeal.

According to Gericke, up to three advocates are attacked at that intersection a day. Some, whose windows were open, have either a gun or a knife stuck into their face and they were warned “not to do something stupid”.

They then have to hand over their cellphones and other belongings in the car.

Some, whose windows were closed, had them smashed. Others, who parked in the vicinity after Hallmark was closed for refurbishing, were attacked while crossing the intersection on foot.

Gericke said the attacks started about a month and a half to two months ago, but it stopped for a while. “It has recently flared up again, with up to three of our members a day being attacked.”

About three weeks ago, one of the advocates had to hand over all his belongings when a gun was pushed to his head, Gericke said.

Poortman explained that a gang of about eight members, who are all in their twenties and call themselves the “Ma Sevens”, are active in the area.

She said that a group of police officers – not in uniform – have been assigned to specially operate in the area. “Several arrests have been made over the past few months, but the suspects are released on bail, and immediately go back to what they were doing,” said Poortman.

Poortman said several of the arrests have been made as a result of footage from CCTV cameras within the city. She said that the gang members would disappear for a few weeks when police visibility is high in the area, and return as soon as the police have moved on to other areas.

She warned that residents who pay their water and lights accounts at the council offices in Pretorius Street should make doubly sure that their vehicles are locked after they park. Criminals make use of a remote control to block the signal from the owner’s remote. That way, the owner is under the impression that the vehicle is locked when it is not.

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