Bus thefts: Patrons feel unsafe

Thieves have been targeting passengers and drivers on Golden Arrow buses.

A Transport Enforcement Unit is set to be deployed on Golden Arrow buses following a spate of 49 robberies on their buses in the past five months.

JP Smith, the City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security, said the City would co-fund the unit.

Mr Smith told local radio station, CapeTalk, on Monday that they would be meeting with Golden Arrow Bus Services (GABS) today, Wednesday May 29, to discuss further details, including an implementation date.

GABS general manager, Derick Meyer, said anything which threatened the safety and security of passengers and the company’s assets was of major concern.

“The company will institute commensurate measures to address this,” he told the Plainsman.

This comes after an average of about 10 cases of robbery had been reported every month since January. Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha and Nyanga bus routes have been the worst hit by robberies, and the most recent incident is the fatal shooting of a passenger in Lawulo Road, in Site C, Khayelitsha on Wednesday May 15.

Passengers told the Vukani on Monday May 27 they did not feel safe travelling by bus and that armed security guards were needed on buses to deter criminals.

Lee-Ann Prins, from Eastridge, said she changed her work shift from 8am to 5pm, to start at 7am and end at 4pm, to avoid getting home when it is dark.

“I am very scared to travel by bus but what choice do I have?” she asked.

Riyaaz Ryklief, from Portland, said there should be armed security guards with tactical training on the bus.

“They should be visible and deter robbers. They must not be stupid,” he said.

Cassiem Hoosain, from Eastridge, who works in the security industry, said the guards must be visible and be properly equipped to deal with criminals who are armed.

Curtly Galant, from New Woodlands, said security guards on buses would deter criminals “from trying their luck”.

Before the drivers’ takings were targeted and under normal operational circumstances, between five to eight robberies were reported a month in previous years.

Mr Meyer said since last year they had seen a change in the modus operandi, with robbers targeting passengers for their cellphones and other belongings.

“Robberies on buses have unfortunately increased,” he said. “These robbers act as passengers when they board the bus, then wait strategically for the opportunity to rob the passengers,” said Mr Meyer.

Mr Meyer said the fatal shooting in Khayelitsha two weeks ago had been an “unfortunate opportunistic incident”.

He said it was difficult to draw particular trends and patterns from information because of the sporadic manner in which the robberies occurred. “Our operations are open and exposed on all our 3000 plus routes,” he said.

Mr Meyer said they have been talking to several service providers, law enforcement agencies and security companies. “Some of the solutions are challenged by some constraints but it seems that implementation is imminent,” he said.

GABS has also made available a reward of
R50 000 for information that would lead to the arrest and conviction of the robbers.

Mr Meyer said to date no information had been reported, however, five people were in custody. awaiting bail hearings.

Provincial police spokesman, Captain FC Van Wyk, said more suspects were being sought in connection with the robberies of passengers as well as for the murder case.

Detectives investigating the robberies of passengers on Golden Arrow buses in the Lingelethu West, Philippi East and Khayelitsha areas made a breakthrough last week, when they arrested seven suspects on Monday May 20.

The men, aged between 19 and 33, appeared in the Philippi Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday May 22. They were held in custody and were due to apply for bail tomorrow ,Thursday May 30.

Captain Van Wyk said property stolen during some of these robberies had also been recovered.

He said since December, a task team had been established to investigate all cases of robberies on buses.

He said serious and violent crimes were high on the priority list of the Western Cape police
and every endeavour was being made to
ensure the safety of commuters and the public in general.

“Crime initiatives and operations are applied to curb robberies and to apprehend those responsible for these robberies. The finer aspects of our operational endeavours can unfortunately not be disclosed,” he said.

Anyone with information can call 080 065
6463, 021 937 8827 or email information@gabs.co.za