A spate of muggings on Hout Bay beach has led to the launch of an out-of-season beach patrol.
The beach patrol pilot project, to run from 4.30pm and 6pm between Thursday and Sundays in May, is aimed at countering a recent crime spike along the beach.
The patrol will be driven by Tammy Matthysen, of Hout Bay Neighbourhood Watch, who also oversees the Beach Safety Project over the festive season.
During the long weekend, several muggings and attempted muggings were reported to Hout Bay police, Watchcon control centre as well as security services.
On Thursday April 26, resident Jennifer Manikkam was taking her daily walk on the beach at about 6.15pm when she was approached by two men who had been sitting on the wide dune overlooking the beach.
“They caught me by surprise, given their silent and swift movement, and asked me the time. I replied and walked on, but before I knew it, I was encircled and asked for my cellphone. When I hesitated, I was shown a rather long sharp object,” she said.
“I threw my cellphone, and the taller young man picked it up and danced around with it. He then walked with his friend back to the dune.”
However, her ordeal was not over, and the friend then approached her and pointed a screwdriver at her stomach.
“At that moment, I screamed ‘help’, and ran into the sea for safety. The friend then looked, turned around and went away.”
Ms Manikkam said an elderly German couple had seen from a distance what had happened.
“They were so scared and asked me to give them a lift (once she had reached her car), which I did. I then went to the police station to lay a charge.”
She said Hout Bay police had told her that a man resembling one of the muggers had been caught.
But the police say no arrest has been made in this incident.
On Wednesday April 25, a man and his wife were confronted by two men on Beach Road.
“The suspects asked the time and demanded the man’s wallet. He handed an undisclosed amount of cash to the suspects. One 18-year-old male suspect and a juvenile were arrested,” said Hout Bay police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch.
Warrant Officer Lesch said there had been another attack in the harbour precinct at 7.15pm on Thursday April 26.
“The complainant was approached by an unknown male in the bathroom. The suspect demanded the complainant’s backpack and ran away with it. No arrests have been made as yet,” she said.
“SAPS would like to urge the public once again to be more vigilant and not to walk alone on the beach or deserted areas. Valuables should never be visible,” she said.
On Monday morning this week, neighbourhood watch member Clive Seaton was walking on the beach when he saw a woman carrying a packet with a child in tow coming over the dune in the opposite direction, about 100m away.
“She was being followed by a guy dressed in black who was gaining on them. Spotting something out of the ordinary comes easily to me as I have owned a CCTV company and profile situations automatically,” he said.
Mr Seaton, who was carrying his neighbourhood watch radio, began shouting and called Watchcon on the radio.
“He (the man) saw us, stopped, turned and ran back in the direction of Harbour Road. I’m not sure what his intention was, but it was out of the ordinary as he ran when confronted. I know the law regarding incidents such as these, and he is innocent until proved otherwise.”
Ms Matthysen said the winter beach patrol project had already attained a full roster of volunteers.
However, she cautioned residents and visitors to the beach to be vigilant at all times.
“It is clear that no one should be going onto the beach alone after 6pm. It is just not safe anymore.
“If you look at the beachfront, there is dense shrubbery and thick bushes on Princess Street, places where it is easy for criminals to lie in wait. We are looking into the possibility of cutting some of this down,” she said.
She said there was no alternative but to have as many eyes on the beach as possible.
“We are still discussing other measures, such as law enforcement quad bikes patrolling the beach. We are also looking at establishing more CCTV cameras in the area. Deep Blue Security has also kindly offered to let us use their offices as a base for operations.”
Businesses or members of the public who would like to get involved with the out-of-season beach patrol can email firstname.lastname@example.org