Mall robberies on the rise

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Staff at Maponya Mall consulted with Pick n Pay security and detectives from the Gauteng branch of the South African Police Service. One staffer said, "It looks like highly organised crime." By the afternoon of Monday, September 1 trading had resumed.

JOHANNESBURG – Armed robberies at shopping malls, according to available crime statistics, are on the increase. And what appears to be a sudden surge of attacks in recent weeks seems to indicate that shopping centre robberies are spiking.

There have been at least eight attacks on malls in the past three weeks – with i-Stores and cellphone outlets being the hardest hit.

According to the Consumer Goods Risk Initiative, an organisation that collects and exchanges non-competitive, crime-related information to ensure the safety of retail customers and staff.

The CGRI has stated that armed robberies in shopping centres rose by 60% in the 2012/13 financial year compared with the year before, with the highest targeted commodity being cellphones.

However Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the recent high profile attacks were not necessarily an indication of a new and burgeoning crime trend, nor should they be seen as evidence that mall robberies were out of control.

“It is something that has always been around, and just because we have seen more of them over a short period, we cannot say it is massively on the increase,” Dlamini said.

He said the crime was becoming increasingly sophisticated, with inside information playing an increasingly prominent role.

“For example, in the Maponya Mall robbery (on Monday), we are investigating the possibility that security guards were involved,” he said.

“It’s easy for people to sit back and blame the police for everything, but there is a lot the malls themselves can do.”

Dlamini said malls were advised to increase their security, do a better job of staff screening and invest in upgraded closed circuit cameras.

It is something that has always been around, and just because we have seen more of them over a short period, we cannot say it is massively on the increase

“If the footage we have of the mall robberies was not of such poor quality, we would have an easier time identifying the robbers and we could apprehend them quicker,” Dlamini said.

He added that festive season crime prevention operations, implemented at the end of every year, were in the final planning stages and would kick off “soon”.

Mall robberies, cash-in-transit heists and other attacks tend to increase towards the end of the year over the Christmas holidays and when bonuses are traditionally paid.
Recent attacks:

 

13 August – A shopper was shot and wounded when a gang of men stormed the iStore at Cresta Mall.  The robbers made off with bags full of iPhones and iPads.

14 August – A gang hit the iStore at The Glen shopping centre in southern Joburg. A security guard was wounded in the leg when at least seven men robbed the shop, fleeing with electronics worth more than R1-million.

22 August – A gang robbed the i-Store in Centurion. Police said suspects managed to get away with about R1-million worth of phones, Macbooks and iPads.

1 September – Two armed men held up staff at a cellphone shop in Northgate Shopping Centre.

1 September – Six men attacked security guards who went to collect cash from the Pick ‘n Pay in Maponya Mall in Soweto. The group approached two security guards who were carrying cash from one of the stores. Authorities say one shot was fired but no one was hurt. The robbers got away with bags of cash.

2 September – Four men robbed a Telkom store at the Kolonnade Shopping Centre in Pretoria East, of cellphones with a resale value of R200,000.
 
3 September – Gauteng police have launched a manhunt for three men who robbed a Telkom store in the Eastgate Shopping Centre. The men entered the store late in the afternoon and demanded cellphones from staff valued at an undisclosed amount of money, before fleeing.

4 September – Armed robbers hit a clothing store at the World Wear shopping centre in Fairland.