Spate of IT theft plagues Makhanda

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Residents in Makhanda (Grahamstown) have growing concerns over what appears to be a recent spike in IT related theft. What might start as a disturbance in the garden has, for some families, turned into a violent attempt at a house break-in.

Since the beginning of May, Grocott’s Mail has made note of at least seven incidents reported on local social media, warning of house break-ins resulting in stolen laptops, televisions and other technologies.

Police Spokesperson Captain Mali Govender said that SAPS cannot release crime stats; however in most cases, cellphones and laptops are stolen. “We no longer find that PC computers (desktops) are stolen, as they are too bulky to transport or hide. Televisions, especially flat-screen televisions are stolen,” she said.

Hi-Tec’s Response Manager Kenny Knoetze said that since 1 May 2019, 10 laptops and five cellphones had been stolen in house burglaries.

“My personal [assessment]is that it’s more organised and regular offenders,” Knoetze said. “Often what happens when prisoners are released from jail [is that]crime increases.”

While discussions on social media suggest that young children have been used in these crimes as a way to sneak into homes and businesses, SAPS nor Hi-Tec could confirm this. “In several of our recent trespassing cases where the suspects did not manage to enter the house we have arrested adults who are short and slim or tall and slim,” said Govender. “Most of these suspects are aged between 19 and 29.”

Whether or not these crimes link to drug-related activity is yet to be proven, said Govender.

“Although it is widely believed in the community that the single biggest reason for burglaries is to [acquire]property to sell for drugs, this has not been proven when suspects have been arrested.”

SAPS also could not verify whether the perpetrators are professionals, or linked to any crime syndicates.

SAPS advised residents to take extra caution when securing their homes and belongings. The installation of extra spotlights or outdoor lights, as well as consultation with the local security company can help protect residents.

Knoetze urged residents to ensure their alarms were activated, and to activate or install a tracking feature on cellphones.

“Most important, be alert,” said Govender. “If your dog barks, investigate without leaving your house. If you see or hear movement, don’t arm yourself with a walking stick and storm outside.

“Do not fall into a set routine, as this is very easily used against you. Always lock your back door and/or front door, even if you feel safe inside your house. Ensure that small windows are shut when you leave home and before retiring for the evening.

“Finally, lock up your valuables and do not leave your handbags or small pouches with your valuables on the kitchen counter, within reach of windows, even if they are burglar proofed.”

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