Cape Town – Criminal syndicates are not only recruiting police officers into their ranks or impersonating them, but going the whole hog by outfitting their vehicles in police livery in order to lure unsuspecting victims.
In several cases this week, criminals used cars dressed up as police vehicles to commit various crimes.
Athlone police opened a case of hijacking after a truck was flagged down by marked police Nissan double cab in Athlone. Police said the driver was dropped off unharmed in Muizenberg and the suspects got away with cigarettes worth R3million.
Flying squad members who responded to the incident said: “The marked police cab with cloned number plates had not been found and is still out there. We are not sure if the suspects were real or bogus cops.”
On Monday, flying squad members responded to a call about a car that veered off the road.
“Upon arriving on the scene, members of the dog unit searched the swamp area and arrested a suspect with an Uzi machine gun in his possession.While searching the crashed vehicle, we found a blue police light inside. Two suspect got away and it appeared that the suspects were on their way to carry out a robbery,” said the flying squad.
Institute for Security Studies (ISS) researcher Johan Burger said bogus police posed a real threat and the only way to stay out of their reach was for motorists to go to a mall or a garage.
Burger added that criminals impersonating police officers tended to carry out their devious plans on deserted roads. The situation was compounded by corrupt officers who were also allegedly carrying out robberies, hijacking and bribing motorists.
He said this makes it difficult for people to distinguish when pulled off the road, or asked to stop, whether it is real police officers or bogus cops. At the same time it was dangerous when travelling at night and faced with these situations on deserted and dark roads.
Burger explained that this type of crime wasn’t new and was committed countrywide, adding that such crimes were at times sporadic, flared up in certain areas and became a hot topic once in the media headlines.
“This type of crime comes in three forms. First is fully clothed police officers openly committing robberies, hijacking and bribes; second, people impersonating police officers who have all the markings and equipment of being real police officers; and third, those driving in private cars pretending to be cops.
“In Gauteng, a motorist noticed that a uniformed police officer who stopped him wore takkies and this made him uncomfortable, so he drove to the nearest garage,” Burger said.
Last week, two police officers, one of whom was attached to the major offences reaction team, and three civilians were arrested on charges of theft of a motor vehicle, possession of housebreaking equipment and cloned number plates. A double-cab attached to the Prevention Intervention Team was allegedly used in robberies.
The five were nabbed after police foiled their plans to carry out an alleged robbery at the home of a Chinese businessman in Parow North. They appeared on Monday in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court and the case was postponed for the formulation of the charge sheets. They are due back in court tomorrow.