Residents of Garsfontein yesterday took to social media to react with delight at the arrest of the so-called “Fence Ninja”.
Security groups in the area said he was recognised when buying “pap and vleis” at a local supermarket.
He was intercepted by a member of security group Accon and arrested by a police reservist.
Police spokesperson Captain Ilze Jones said: “The reservist immediately called for back-up.
“Two other reservists assisted in arresting the suspect, who was taken to the Garsfontein police station.”
Jones said the suspect was linked to cases dating back to September 2016.
“He is linked with charges including housebreaking, theft and trespassing,” said Jones.
The residents staged a protest outside the Garsfontein police station when the man was apprehended in March, but released the next day by police apparently because no case had been laid.
However, a poster with his photograph and the description of “Fence Ninja” and “Tuindwergie” (garden gnome) and giving his name and four aliases had been circulated.
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Residents responded to the call by Garsfontein police station commander Colonel Kerwin Solomons to lay charges.
But for close to three months, the “ninja” continued to evade arrest despite numerous postings on the suburb’s security WhatsApp groups that he had been seen, or had left evidence of his presence.
The man has been harassing the Garsfontein community policing precinct for more than eight months, entering and leaving properties via back walls, out of site of security and police patrol cars.
One resident recently described looking out a window when her dog growled and seeing him slip silently “like a snake” into her neighbour’s yard.
Many residents spent thousands of rand upgrading their security with razor wire, electric fencing, beams and alarms, but still he managed to gain entry and evade arrest.
However, police have confirmed that he is now in detention and can be linked to as many as 30 charges.
Residents congratulated those involved in his arrest with many thumbs-up and clapping emojis, as well as expressing the wish that he not be set free again any time soon.
Pretoria News editor Val Boje, who lives in the area and was part of a delegation to meet Solomons in March, expressed the community’s relief at news of the arrest.
“This man has caused great anxiety for us all over a long period of time. Our thanks go to those who have now ensured his arrest.
“Tonight we will all sleep better for it,” she said.
He had been nicknamed a “fence ninja” for his ability to scale walls in the Garsfontein area.
For months the suburb was increasingly frustrated and frightened as he moved from block to block stealing but never getting caught. Garsfontein police station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Kervin Solomons thanked all the Community Policing Forum members and residents for working together to fight crime.
Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee, who spearheaded the earlier protest outside the police station, commended the police for the arrest.
“We thank the police for the rearrest. The suspect must now be convicted and jailed.
“Perhaps residents must consider going back to the police station to thank the cops,” added Abramjee.