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CAP marshalls say fighting crime is a calling

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When a young woman in the community was sexually assaulted and robbed at gun point in her home two years ago, it was an elite team of volunteer security officers who helped to track down her attackers.

Working alongside the South African Police Service (SAPS), the men responsible for helping to apprehend her brutal assailants belong to the Community Active Protection (CAP) Marshall Unit. They are a team of highly trained volunteer security officers and unsung heroes who give freely of their time and expertise to safeguard the community.

Attorney by day and member of the unit at night, Yosef Shishler said it felt good to be able to help that woman.

“She wasn’t just another crime statistic, she was a member of the community, and we were able to help her in our way,” he told the SA Jewish Report.

Father of three, Shishler volunteers for the Family Life Centre, and is also a volunteer paramedic with Hatzolah.

“I recall the brutal attack. The woman didn’t live in a CAP-monitored area, but we came together as a team on the night to try to catch the suspects. Working with the SAPS and following intense investigations and a lot of township hopping, we were able to track down the suspects and bring the perpetrators to book. I felt a sense of fulfilment that we were able to do something.”

Made up of former members of the SAPS, police reservists, military and security specialists, the CAP Marshall Unit comprises people from diverse career backgrounds including a chef, an attorney, a couple of accountants, a few businessmen, and a paramedic. Doing what they do best – helping to fight crime in one of the most dangerous cities in the world – unites them.

“These men are true heroes,” said CAP Chief Operating Officer Sean Jammy.

The unit was established in 2018 to provide a way for community members to give back in an operational capacity, he said. Initially comprised of a handful of individuals with security, SAPS and or other relevant experience, the unit has grown to include 30 volunteers who offer 16 to 20 hours of shift work a month patrolling from 18:00 to 23:00 and on public holidays.

“These men give up their spare time to patrol the streets while many of us are in bed or out enjoying ourselves. They have been involved in several successful arrests. From patrolling and performing undercover operations to tracking and identifying criminals, they’re an asset to the community,” said Jammy.

For civic minded Daniel Shapiro, this has become a way of life. “The unit has been involved in numerous arrests of armed robbers and other criminals, and has recovered a number of hijacked vehicles and firearms,” he said.

An incident that stands out for him occurred in June last year, when two armed men held up a member of the community in Darwin Avenue, Savoy Estate, having stolen various valuable items including the victim’s cell phone.

“We were on regular patrol when we got a notification over the radio about an armed robbery. We got details from the victim, which helped us to track his phone to Killarney. We saw the suspects’ silver Hyundai parked on the side of the road. We surrounded them, and got them out the vehicle. We recovered all the stolen items, and a fake firearm in the vehicle.”

The two suspects were arrested and handed over to the police.

“There was a feeling of immense pride in knowing that we had actively taken two dangerous criminals off the streets. It feels good knowing that our actions allow people to sleep safer at night,” Shapiro said.

The unit deals with priority calls, and assists CAP’s special intervention unit.

“This isn’t Mickey Mouse work, the more experienced the team, the better. We are all registered with the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, and have firearm competencies to be able to assist the regular tactical operations of the organisation,” said Shapiro.

“This isn’t a place for trigger happy, gung-ho cowboys. We take it very seriously. This is about keeping the community safe. That’s why we like guys with experience who have been around the block, and who know what to do and how to react in certain potentially dangerous situations.”

Grant Zwarts, the head of the unit and a full-time CAP employee, said members of the unit are deployed to specific high priority crime areas based on intelligence and crime trends provided by the CAP analytics department.

Licence Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras placed at various intersections in CAP communities have assisted the unit in making arrests.

“On Sunday, 15 June, an LPR camera in the Houghton area picked up an alert for a white Toyota Corolla. CAP tactical officers together with the CAP Marshall team located the vehicle on Louis Botha Avenue, Orange Grove, and the SAPS were called to assist. The driver of the vehicle was arrested and taken with the vehicle into police custody. The suspect was wanted for serious crimes in the Yeoville area,” said Zwarts.

In a separate and similar incident on 9 June, a number of LPR cameras along Louis Botha Avenue and Bramley flagged a white Chevrolet bakkie, which alerted the CAP command centre.

The vehicle had apparently been stolen during a robbery in the Sandringham police precinct in 2018, said Zwarts.

“CAP dispatched units and worked off the LPR network to pinpoint the vehicle’s location. The vehicle was spotted on Louis Botha Avenue on the corner of 12th Street Orange Grove. The CAP marshalls and the SAPS stopped the vehicle, and two occupants were detained for questioning.”

Members of the unit describe themselves as meshugenahs, and told the SA Jewish Report that doing this work gave them the opportunity to give back to the community.

“This is definitely a calling. Not everyone is cut out for this kind of thing. We feel this is an area where we have the skills and knowledge to make a difference. This is me, this is what I do, it’s part of who I am,” said Shishler.

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