Armed robberies are becoming more widespread and daring in the South African environment as we move closer to the festive season. More and more malls are being targeted, with the targets now varying from high turnover, high value objects like cellphones, iPads and tablets to jewellery. Over the past weekend, the country has seen no less than half a dozen mall robberies around the country.
While the police have continued to promise a more active role in providing security at the many malls around the country, this has not been forthcoming with most cases where the police have acted swiftly coming about because of their coincidental presence in the area. While the mall robberies did not originally have fatalities in the beginning, this seems to be changing dramatically as we approach the festive season.
In the past weekend, a G4S security guard was shot and killed by robbers who eventually made away with an undisclosed amount of money from the Waterstone Village Shopping Centre in Cape Town. The security guard was killed during a shootout that ensued when they were approached by robbers while they were collecting money from the shopping centre. This happened during the day when there were shoppers around. Shoppers had to resort to taking cover to avoid becoming victims themselves.
This was at the very least, the fifth mall robbery during the weekend, with other malls in Cape Town and Gauteng falling victim to these bands of thieves. Police are currently investigating the possibility that there might be a link between the mall robberies of cellphones to a man that was arrested at the Cape Town a International Airport carrying 48 cellphones and a laptop. It has emerged that the police are looking into the possibility that the cellphones being stolen are finding their way to the Nigerian market. Police, at the weekend quoted cellular service providers as saying the stolen cellphones are being activated in the West African country.
Meanwhile, the police have scored some successes with the mall thieves in various locations around the country. In Centurion, the police managed to apprehend the six men that had robbed a Vodacom shop at the Centurion Mall of two bagfuls a of cellphones. A few minutes later, the police in Irene, another part of Centurion, also cornered and arrested one person who is part of a gang that had robbed the a Telkom shop at the mall. Still on Friday night, cooperation was shown in its full might between the police and members of the community when, in Kraaifontein, in Brackenfell, a worker informed a customer at the drive through window about an ongoing robbery in their shop. The customer called the police who, together with a local security company, cornered the Toyota Quantum which was being used as the getaway vehicle and apprehended the suspects.
While these are commendable situations and actions from the police and members of the public, there is no debate that more needs to be done to curb this situation as it is beginning to affect business at the malls since members of the public become wary of being caught in the crossfire of these robberies. While, as yet, no member of the public has been documented as having been negatively affected by these, it is only a matter of time if this status quo is allowed to persist.