East London police said they were investigating 27 cases of vehicle thefts. They said 15 suspects have already been arrested and this was to be followed by more arrests.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mtati Tana said 10 vehicles had been stolen in the past two weeks in East London.
The vehicles, a green Toyota Hilux, a red Opel Kadett, a blue and white VW Golf, a blue Ford Bantam and many other models were stolen in Cambridge, Vincent Amalinda and Southernwood. Vehicles also went missing in Fleet Street, Buffalo Street and Church Street in the CBD.
Brigadier Marinda Mills of the provincial police said there was no cause for alarm. “We have been briefed by our vehicle theft unit and there is no reason for panic,” she said.
Mills said there had not been an increase in vehicle theft in the city and police were busy dealing with the issue. She said police had not established that a vehicle theft syndicate existed.
But Neville Worsfold of CrimeSpotter Buffalo City said he believed there was a syndicate of small-time criminals operating in groups.
“The modus operandi is the same. The guys steal a vehicle and park it in a convenient place such as the front of a restaurant or garage.
“They leave the vehicle there for a few days and if it is not spotted they come back and take it,” said Worsfold. He suspected the vehicles were sent for sale in rural Transkei towns.
“We are increasingly getting reports of stolen vehicles on our Facebook page. The suspects are being arrested but not in large numbers,” he said.
In one incident a blue Ford Laser was stolen three days before Christmas near the Cambridge West Spar.
A day later police recovered the vehicle in Scenery Park.
The vehicle had been stripped of its wheels and radio and the windows had been broken.
Gonubie resident Nadine Hill said “there is something funny going on in East London.” Her gold Opel Astra hatchback was stolen from the Gonubie beach on December 13.
“As soon as the car went missing there were about 10 cars that went around looking for it but could not find it. I don’t think the car left Gonubie that day because we were all over the place,” said Hill. She said she suspected there was a syndicate.
Pam Rossouw said she was very lucky to have recovered her husband’s Toyota Hilux which was stolen on December 7, near Nahoon beach.
“We immediately alerted police and our tracker guys and the car was found parked at the Spar in Southernwood,” she said.
The suspects were never caught.