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Smash-and-grab hotspots in Joburg

Large swathes of the City of Johannesburg are currently plagued with non-functioning traffic lights despite a break in load-shedding in recent weeks.

This has resulted in the build-up of traffic at these intersections for hours at a time, leading to motorists falling victim to smash-and-grab incidents.

Areas flagged by law enforcement for these crimes include:

  • Alexandra
  • Beyers Naude Drive
  • Crown Interchange
  • Diepsloot
  • Johannesburg CBD
  • Malibongwe Drive
  • Midrand
  • Moroka (Soweto)
  • Orange Farm
  • Randburg

Thieves are reportedly assuming the appearance of beggars or roadside vendors and loitering in traffic to inspect vehicles for motorists’ personal belongings that are within reach, and pouncing as soon as they see an opportunity.

Authorities on high alert

The recent resurgence in smash-and-grabs follows another incident of a similar kind that recently took place on the M1 freeway in Joburg.

During rush-hour traffic on the morning of 20 February, several motorists standing on the M1-M2 freeway split with nowhere to go were robbed at gunpoint.

The armed assailants took advantage of the gridlock traffic to move from one car to the next and rob victims of their valuables such as cellphones. It is believed that the criminals were part of illegal mining operations in the area.

In response, the National Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS), General Fannie Masemola, ordered the maximum mobilisation of officers along Gauteng highways and other strategic locations during peak-hour traffic in an attempt to avoid such incidents going forward.

Furthermore, the SAPS Highway Patrol, SAPS Airwing, and Gauteng Flying Squad units were roped in to conduct regular patrols on routes identified as high-risk.

Joburg Metro Police (JMPD) spokesperson Xolani Fihla told eNCA that these actions have bore fruit, both positive and negative.

While minor crimes have decreased since the beefing up of police patrols on dangerous roads, the JMPD has noticed an increase in serious vehicle-related crimes.

“From what we’ve observed is that issues like smash-and-grabs have died down, [but] crimes are becoming more serious within the city where people are being robbed with aggravating circumstances,” said Fihla.

The JMPD recommends that motorists stay vigilant on the road and to report these crimes when they happen to assist the authorities in bringing the thieves to book.

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