Is Kirkland Street becoming a hot spot for criminals targeting motorists?

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Is Kirkland Street becoming a haven for petty criminals, who prey on unsuspecting motorists? And are these criminals becoming more brazen in their attacks on law-abiding citizens?

Recently, a Newcastillian not only witnessed a man attempt to rob another motorist; but nearly became a victim herself, a few days later.

“I travel to work along Kirkland Street and one morning, I was behind a woman, who was travelling with her child, at the traffic lights at the Kirkland and Sutherland Street intersection. While waiting for the traffic light to turn green, I saw a man approach her car and start trying to open the doors,” says Corrine Barnes.

Fortunately, the motorist had locked her doors and was able to drive off as the traffic lights had turned green.

However, Barnes explains the incident left her shocked. “Everyone speaks about what they will do when they see something like that, but I just froze when it happened. Then, a few days later, while on the way to work, I stopped at the same intersection and my eye caught movement near my car.”

Horrified, Barnes saw the same man trying to open her car doors. “I started yelling at him and he was so arrogant, that he came to the driver’s side door and tried to open the door again. When I carried on yelling at him, he tried to change his tactic and showed a hand gesture requesting I give him money.”

Barnes managed to escape without the perpetrator stealing anything from her.

With reports surfacing on a regular basis regarding smash and grab incidents, the Newcastle SAPS is encouraging motorists to be cautious while travelling in town.

“People who pounce on unsuspecting drivers, have turned some pleasant rides into nightmares. They smash a car’s window or even open an unlocked door, grabbing whatever they regard as of value,” says Newcastle SAPS spokesperson Captain Jabulani Ncube.

Read more: Is petty crime on the increase on Kirkland Street?

With the Newcastle SAPS warning motorists about the opportunistic crime, Captain Ncube has supplied safety tips to minimise the chances of being targeted by perpetrators.

Whether your vehicle is moving or stationary, the following steps should be followed:

  • Lock all your doors and close all the windows.  Thieves steal handbags and other valuables by opening car doors or even by breaking windows while your car is stationary at traffic lights or stuck in slow-moving traffic.
  • Don’t have bags, cell phones, briefcases or other valuables visible in the vehicle.  Lock all valuables in the boot of your car or behind the seat if it is a bakkie.
  • When approaching a red traffic light at night, slow down so that you only reach it when it turns green and therefore do not need to stop.
  • Be wary of people standing at traffic lights or intersections.  “They may be innocent, but perpetrators mix with these people while waiting for an opportunity to pounce.  They may even point to something being wrong with your window or get you to open your window or get out of your vehicle,” Captain Ncube warns.
  • Never open your vehicle window or door for any stranger.
  • If you encounter obstacles in the road such as rocks or tyres, do not get out of your vehicle to remove them.  Immediately reverse and drive off in the opposite direction.
  • Thieves target car parks.  Always park your car in attended parking lots.
  • Never sit in your vehicle without being fully conscious of your surroundings.  Sleeping in a stationary vehicle is very dangerous.
  • Always remove radios, CDs or cassette players, if possible.
  • Never leave any children alone in a vehicle, not even for a moment. Take them with you, wherever you go. “Children often innocently allow access to your car and belongings to criminals and put themselves in danger,” Captain Ncube explains.

Urging Newcastillians to be cautious, Captain Ncube explains residents should constantly be on the look-out for suspicious-looking characters.  “Don’t hesitate to report them to the police,” he says.

The SAPS can be contacted via the SAPS Emergency Line on 10111 or through SAPS Crime Stop on 08600 10111.

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