Businesses around Pietermaritzburg are advised to upgrade their security measures amid an increase in business robberies in the city.
This comes after at least four businesses were robbed at gunpoint last week and had an undisclosed amount of cash taken, leaving staff traumatised.
A multi-disciplinary operation by SAPS members from 24 police stations and police units in the uMgungundlovu District saw 28 people, aged between 20 and 45, arrested for various crimes on Friday.
They were charged with robbery and resisting arrest, as well as possession of stolen property, dangerous weapons, heroine, cocaine and state property. Illegal immigrants were also arrested.
Msunduzi traffic department, security and the Department of Economic Development were also part of the operation.
Pietermaritzburg police commander Major-General Nozipho Madondo said the operation was to clean the city.
“We are having challenges with robberies that are taking place in broad daylight. Shops are being targeted and robbed of money and stock and it is our responsibility to ensure we deal with all these criminal activities happening in our city,” said Madondo.
She said they also deal with drugs being sold in different parts of the city, illegal firearms, snatching of people’s bags as well as robberies at knife and gun point. Contact crimes usually occurred during paydays, she said.
“Our vision is to have a safe city as well as the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg. We are trying to address all these robberies in the city. We also understand that we cannot address crime in one day, so we are going to have these operations continuously until we are satisfied that the level of crime is decreasing in the city,” said Madondo.
She said they also wanted to ensure successful prosecution of the perpetrators.
On Thursday, two shops in Victoria Road, Bombay Curry Den Express and another were robbed by four men.
Management from Bombay Curry Den Express said one of the men was armed. He said three entered the shop and forced staff members to the back and asked one of the women to open the safe and cash register.
“They were young guys and didn’t have any face masks on. One of them ripped off the Digital video recorder and they fled with cash,” said a person from the shop who asked not to be named. No one was injured.
He said the incident happened 15 minutes before they closed.
“We also had a burglary in December where two guys entered through the roof. This is affecting our businesses and there’s hardly any police visibility in the area,” he said.
Fashion World in Church Street has been robbed twice since December.
A staff member, who asked not to be named, said it was a traumatic experience and being at the corner of the street did not make things easy for them. “There is a need for more police presence so we can also feel safe. There’s a lot of illegal activities happening on this street and it’s scary.”
The staff member added that they were robbed of cash by four men on Wednesday. “They pretended to be customers and when they were at the till, they pulled out guns and demanded money.”
Radley Govender, of the RZS Protection security guard services, said the increase in business robberies was alarming.
He urged business owners to be vigilant and invest in a good security system. “They need to ensure their security guards are well trained and alert in case anything happens,” he said.
Walungisa Protection Service (WPS) owner Imraan Osman said with the number of reported robberies in the city, business owners needed to start investing more in security systems such as panic buttons.
He said they noted that after the robbery, staff members took time to call the armed response teams due to trauma sustained, and thus gave robbers ample time to flee the scene.
Osman said just this month alone, more than 12 businesses were robbed at gun points in Pietermaritzburg. He said this was a sharp increase, considering that May was only half way through and that number could increase.
“We have been advising businesses that they need to invest in security … If businesses have panic buttons, that increases our response time and we can apprehend the suspects. In most cases, the store notifies the police after three or more minutes of the incidents and that’s too late,” he said.