CNS Reporter
4 minute read
11 Mar 2018
10:12 am

Criminal in Gauteng ‘scouts with drone’ before stealing from yard

CNS Reporter

The use of little 'eyes in the sky' appears to be aiding criminal enterprise worldwide.

Johan Coetzer shows the light of the drone caught on his security camera.

Criminals have now devised a new plan to outwit observant residents and the police, reports the Carletonville Herald.

On Monday, a resident of Aster Drive in Carletonville, Mr Johan Coetzer, showed the Herald a video of the new means that some criminals have now started using. According to him, he and his wife heard a buzzing sound in the air outside their home one evening.

“We could see that our dog, who is very alert and was with us at the time, had heard it as well. We talked about it and decided it must have been the wind,” he said.

It was only after some of their property disappeared from the family’s yard last Wednesday night, however, that the truth came to light. Coetzer says he immediately noticed that something was wrong when he walked out the front door on Thursday morning. After looking around, he noticed that a hose and lights that had been put up in their front yard were missing.

To try to find out who had taken the property, Coetzer decided to view the footage of a safety camera installed on the family’s verandah. The footage, which the Herald has seen, shows that just after 2am on Thursday morning, a light appeared above the flower bed closest to the verandah.

It continued to bob around there for several minutes before suddenly rising straight into the air and floating towards the perimeter wall. It then flew over the wall and disappeared from sight.

Coetzer, a model aircraft enthusiast, immediately realised the light was that of a small, unmanned aircraft carrying a camera, commonly known as a drone.

This was confirmed by the fact that, about three minutes after the light disappeared from sight on the video, a white man in a dark shirt and a light pair of trousers could be seen slipping through the front gate. He clearly knew where the beams of the safety cameras were situated as he crouched to the ground in the areas where his presence would trigger them. He also knew exactly where the lights and the hosepipe were. He snatched the lights one by one before rolling up the hose and disconnecting it from the tap. He then slipped away through the same gate.

“It is clear that the drone scouted where the safety cameras were before he came in. I know there wasn’t much stolen but I want to warn other residents that these things are now happening here as well,” Coetzer said.

“This is the first time we have been made aware of this modus operandi in Carletonville. That does not mean that it has not occurred before, however. Residents must be on the lookout for such drones in their yards and immediately contact the police if they see a suspicious one around their property,” said Colonel Wessel Prinsloo of the Carletonville Detective Services.

The use of drones in criminal activities such as theft and even drug smuggling has become a huge problem worldwide, including the US and UK.

The Herland asked the Merafong City Local Municipality whether there were any bylaws regulating the use of drones in the area. While the answer was no, the spokesperson explained this was a national competency and the regulation of drones was done by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).

“South African drone law can be found in Part 101 of the South African Civil Aviation Regulations, and is applicable from 1 July 2015,” he said.

According to this legislation, a drone, identified in the legislation as a remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) may only be used for an individual’s personal and private purposes where there is no commercial outcome, interest or gain.

The pilot must observe all statutory requirements relating to liability, privacy and any other laws enforceable by any other authorities.

For all other use, an RPA must be registered and may only be operated in terms of Part 101 of the South African Civil Aviation Regulations.

The dangers of the negligent operation of an RPA include collisions with other aircraft, with possibly fatal results, injury to the public and damage to people’s property.

The drone’s controller can be held legally liable for breaking privacy bylaws and other laws enforceable by other authorities.