CrimeNews

Shopping centres brace for spike in armed robberies

Security experts said there are several measures businesses can take to reduce the chance of a security breach at their premises.

The holiday season is here, and thousands of shoppers are already flocking to shopping centres and malls to buy Christmas gifts.
This period also means South Africans should be prepared for a surge in crime, especially armed robberies.

Law enforcement agencies, including security companies, warned that crime syndicates and organised gangs are also on the lookout for easy targets, especially in the business precincts.

Shopping malls in Ekurhuleni, including Boksburg, are not spared, as they have also recently seen several armed robberies at jewellery stores.

Given this, the Advertiser asked some of the local shopping centres if they have taken additional steps to prepare for the expected spike in crime. We also asked them to share tips on how to stay safe at shopping centres during this festive season.

The East Rand Mall says the centre has beefed up security and assigned additional security personnel to ensure the safety and security of all customers and tenants.

“There is a 24-hour security control room and adequate onsite security guards. The mall’s security control room is connected to offsite monitoring through surveillance footage and in contact with armed response.

“SAPS members visit the mall on an ad hoc basis, and we value our strong working relationship with them,” explained Pierre Botha, East Rand Mall marketing manager.

Spike in business robberies
Fidelity ADT said it has noted an alarming spike in the number of business robberies in the region, including Ekurhuleni and Johannesburg.
According to the group, the hardest-hit areas are in Ekurhuleni and the South of Johannesburg with 18 incidents reported over the last month.

The most targeted areas have been retail stores like jewellery, sports and general clothing stores, and business owners are advised to tighten up their security.

“Even the best-planned emergency plan cannot prevent an unexpected retail robbery from occurring, and as unemployment numbers rise, this trend could escalate,” warned Charnel Hattingh, head of marketing and communications at Fidelity ADT.

Hattingh said in a recent robbery, the Fidelity Specialised Intervention Unit was called out to check the whereabouts of a truck loaded with stolen stock taken in an armed robbery in Kyalami at the beginning of December.
The truck was found in an industrial area in Centurion where the stolen stock was about to be delivered, and some of the stolen goods were later found in three warehouses in Jet Park, Boksburg.

She said business robberies have increased over the last month, and one challenge faced now is also the mandatory wearing of a face mask in public spaces.
“Criminals are using this to avoid detection and it has made identifying perpetrators that much more difficult. Business owners need to be aware of this and be especially vigilant.”

Hattingh said there are also several measures businesses can take to reduce the chance of a security breach at their premises.
She advises business owners to conduct regular security upgrades and to assess their risk exposure frequently to ensure that they have sufficient insurance cover if they become victims of crime.

Hattingh offers the following safety tips:
· At opening time, inspect the business for forcible entry before entering. One employee should inspect the premises before the rest enter.

· At closing time, send an employee to inspect the exits and parking area for any suspects or suspicious vehicles lurking around.

· Avoid having large amounts of cash on the premises.

· Alternate your banking or cash collection routine regularly.

· Avoid fixtures or signage that obstruct views from and of cash register points.

· Use mirrors and cameras to cover all blind spots in the store and at exit points.

· Invest in good lighting both inside and outside your stores.

· Check your alarm system regularly with your service provider and train your staff on emergency panic procedures.

· Review your current alarm systems and upgrade when required, as this is not a revenue line. The maintenance thereof is mostly neglected.

· Increase the store’s headcount during opening and closing times as groups are a definite deterrent.

· Stagger lunch rosters to ensure that the store is manned sufficiently during these times.

· Do regular credit and criminal checks on all employees, even your regular casual staff

“Don’t be caught off-guard! Stay alert, be proactive and always remain calm in any hostile situation,” concluded Hattingh.

   

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