Police made a breakthrough in busting one of the “five-minute” syndicates after a daring chase along the N3 highway outside Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.
Housebreakings in and around the city have recently been on the rise, with various syndicates using the same modus operandi: gaining entry and looting a house before making a quick escape within five minutes.
Police believe Thursday’s arrest will put a huge dent in the crime spree, with the syndicate taken down on Thurday believed to be linked to numerous cases of housebreaking.
The hunt began on Thursday afternoon at about 1 pm when the gang allegedly struck at three houses in Estcourt, but only successfully gained entry into one.
The description of their vehicle, a white Mercedes, was circulated over police radios along with information on the direction they were heading.
Police believed at the time that the gang was heading back towards Pietermaritzburg.
Officers from various units mobilised, waiting at strategic points for the vehicle to emerge. But it never did.
It is believed the gang made a quick exit off the freeway and raced into Howick where they allegedly hit their next target.
After the house in Howick was burgled, another frantic call came over the police radio, this time stating that the same vehicle spotted in Estcourt was heading back on to the N3 at Howick.
A brave member of the police crime prevention unit spotted the vehicle and followed at a safe distance, constantly alerting his colleagues about their co-ordinates.
A team — comprising officers from the Flying Squad, K9 unit, Tactical Response Team, Crime Prevention, Public Order Policing and the Pietermaritzburg Task Team — who had all gathered after the initial distress call, plotted their ambush after information was received that the gang had passed Hilton.
When the gang members neared Pietermaritzburg the officers swooped.
A convoy of police vehicles raced on to the freeway behind the Mercedes, quickly shoving it off the highway just after the Ohrtmann Road bridge.
The officers arrested five men from inside the car, pegging them to the floor and binding their hands with cable ties.
Police recovered various items from the car including jewellery, a TV set, watches and housebreaking implements. The items are believed to have been stolen from the Estcourt and Howick homes.
Police will now begin the task of linking the gang members, all thought to be foreigners, to other cases in the province.
It will also be established if the Mercedes used in the housebreakings was stolen.
Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said Thursday’s arrest resulted in a “very big syndicate operating province-wide” being nabbed.
“If the gang was not arrested at that specific time, who knows where else they would have struck on their way back to Durban,” Ngobese said.
Quoting acting uMgungundlovu cluster commander Brigadier Robert Gwala, Ngobese said the local police boss expressed his gratitude to all the officers involved in the arrest.
“The officers have been working tirelessly around the clock to eradicate the scourge of housebreaking that seems to be on the increase in our area. These arrests will surely have an impact and may decrease crime drastically,” said Gwala