Brazen thieves target Cape Town guest houses
POLICE believe a gang of thieves are targeting guest houses and hotels and making off with travellers’ luggage, electronics and other valuables.
The opportunistic perpetrators call the guest house using fake foreign accents and pose as guests.
They tell staff an emergency has arisen and they needed to check out.
They say that, as they are heading straight to the airport, someone will collect their luggage.
The gang recently targeted a guest house in Green Point.
Owner of Avatara Guest House Cher Poznanovich said she had not experienced such an incident in the past nine years of running the establishment.
On Saturday, February 10, an Austrian couple booked into the guest house for a 10-night stay, but they decided to go away for two nights during their stay.
On Sunday, February 18, the day they were due to return, a woman phoned the guest house and told employee Godwin Munyama to pack their bags as there was a family emergency and they were heading to Cape Town International Airport.
Later that day the genuine Austrian couple returned to find their luggage had been stolen and Munyama immediately took them to the Sea Point police station where a case of theft was opened. All that was stolen was clothing. But later that day the brazen thieves called Munyama again saying that he had forgotten to pack their electronic equipment.
Munyama called the police and a plan was made to arrest the perpetrators.
Investigating officer Sergeant Wayne Henderson dressed himself in civilian clothing and drove an unmarked police car during the operation.
“First they wanted me to go to the airport and then… the location changed to a hotel in Woodstock.
“I waited outside the hotel for an hour and got another phone call to say I should leave it at reception but I said I couldn’t because it was valuable electronics.”
Henderson said he thought the perpetrators might have caught wind of the plan.
Police believe the thieves could be linked to rental car companies because they require details about where travellers are staying and are able to track the cars.
Police say that similar cases had occurred at a few of the city’s hotels and guest houses in recent months and were believed to have been perpetrated by the same people.
Poznanovich said she had since asked her staff to be more vigilant. She was away when the incident occurred.
She said Munyama explained the caller was frantic and had a German accent.
“We got a frantic call from a lady with a German accent to say there had been a death in the family and they had managed to get a flight out of the country.
“If we would pack their luggage they would send a taxi to collect it, as they were already at the Cape Town airport.
“My assistant could not find anyone to call and so obliged.
“He luckily thought to take a picture of the luggage, but, since they did know key details of the guests, he sent the luggage off.”
Her guests threatened to sue for e7 000, claiming that electronics had been stolen.
“I am covered through my insurance, but it has been a very traumatic experience for all of us,” Poznanovich said.
Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa spokesman Jeff Rosenberg said: “We advise our members to be forthright with their questioning and err on the side of caution.
“As a country and industry we are doing all in our control to ensure the security and safety of our visitors.”
No arrests have been made.