Danger all night long with a crew from the flying squad

THE car‘s tyres screamed as the driver spun in a 180-degree arc. We were responding to a call that there had just been an armed robbery. Two men had held up a woman at gunpoint and fled with her month‘s wages. I‘m spending time with the Nelson Mandela Bay flying squad in the townships of the city, and with sirens screaming, we head full tilt towards where the two robbers were last seen. We‘re close now, the lights go off and the siren dies away. We don‘t want to advertise our presence.
As we slowly drive down dusty dirt roads, the two police officers look down the alleyways that feed this gravel thoroughfare.
“I think we‘ve got something here,” the officer says over the two-way radio.
We edge our way down the alleyway. The two men haven‘t seen us yet. There is the metallic click of guns being loaded. The two walk on, unaware of our presence.
Then one of them sees us creeping up on them. How you creep in a one- ton car on a dirt road amazes me.
All the same, our creeping has been noticed. The two split up and start running between the shacks. The officer slams the car into gear and races after the closest one. Our car brakes suddenly to prevent us from running the man down.
The two police officers, Colin and Juba, jump from the car, guns at the ready. “Wait here!” one screams at me. Since there are people running around with guns, I stay in the car.
Sitting alone in a marked flying squad car, I glance nervously around. A man behind me stops and looks at the car. It‘s one of the men that we are chasing. “Over here, one of them is over here,” I scream while running towards the police officers. They run past me, sweat pouring from their faces.
We have no time to waste. Another call has come in. A silver Opel Rekord has been hijacked in Central.
From what I‘ve been told it‘s been a slow night. As the radio dies down and the workload suddenly disappears, the two officers I am accompanying cruise the dark streets and alleys looking for cars reported stolen.
We have a list of the 24 cars reported stolen in two days. Every car we pass, we check the number plates.
White Toyota Corolla, Citi Golf, blue Isuzu bakkie . . . that shape, model and colour is on the list. The number plate matches. We‘re in business.
We pull over and notice two men dressed to the nines. Under their arms, two drunk young girls stumble towards the stolen bakkie with them.
Colin jumps from the police car, cocks his R5 rifle and raises it towards the people as they start the car. “Step out of the car and put your hands above your head,” he yells at the men. Juba climbs out of the car, raising his 9mm pistol. “Get out of the car. Ladies, stay where you are,” he shouts.
After the arrests, I amble about, taking photos, talking to witnesses.
It seemed Juba had only called in backup five minutes ago, but out of nowhere, a swarm of policemen, armed with flak jackets, guns, mace and sjamboks climb out of their cars.
We‘re back on the street. Five minutes after Colin and Juba have finished their paperwork, another call comes through. A car has been stolen.
For the second time tonight, the car spins in a 180° arc and we make a beeline for the scene of the crime.
The rest of the night is a blur of screeching tyres and high speed.