Local security companies, neighbourhood watch groups and the SAPS have had their hands full with a cat burglar that has been operating in the Tzaneen suburbs for more than a year. Dubbed the “Night Crawler” the suspect is an African male, most likely in his mid-thirties who targets homes and businesses mostly in the Medi Park area. He has never been caught and has thus far made off with loot which is speculated to include at least 30 cell phones, a number of laptops, handbags and purses.
He has never harmed any of his marks and some of the victims have said that he is extremely polite, well spoken, fluent in both English and Afrikaans and non-threatening in his demeanour. For the most part Night Crawler always hits a target premises when the occupants are not in the building and his name is derived from his modus operandi.
Information currently alleges that before entering a premises he removes his shirt and shoes and slithers in through the burglar bars of an open window or unlocked door. Once inside, he scavenges small valuables, exits the building, looks straight at the CCTV cameras, and then leaves. “It is almost as though he smiles at the camera in a taunting manner, and he always knows exactly where the cameras are positioned,” said one of the security officers who has been hunting the Night Crawler for more than half a year.
One woman said that she was relaxing on her couch in broad daylight at her home in Second Avenue when a man approached her and politely asked whether she would empty her handbag for him. She told him where she kept her handbag and he asked if he could have it, upon which she agreed. He thanked her and bid her a good day as he left. According to her, she was so shocked at the polite manner in which she was robbed, that the incident didn’t register at first until she realized her phone was really gone when she wanted to call the security company.
The last confirmed Night Crawler hit was in the Hospital Street area two weeks ago where he was caught on CCTV leaving an apartment building at around 22:30. Tzaneen police in collaboration with the local neighbourhood watch and security companies have ramped up their efforts to bring the Night Crawler to book, at the time of going to print no new information has been released.
“We don’t condone the behaviour of the Night Crawler at all. Though we are relieved that he has never harmed anyone, he is still a criminal and who knows when his demeanour might suddenly change into something not so polite?” said one member of the neighbourhood watch. “We ask anyone with information to come forward and if he is spotted to please contact the SAPS or your security provider immediately.”