2007-11-18: Malls prepare to fight festive season crime

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2007-11-18: Malls prepare to fight festive season crime

Postby Rudi » Mon, 2007-11-19 19:49

Malls prepare to fight festive season crime


Jani Meyer
November 18 2007 at 12:37PM

Police are to use helicopters, aeroplanes, undercover agents and rapid response units to secure the safety of shoppers at major malls over the festive season.

Last year there were 262 robberies at shopping centres countrywide. But this year 230 raids have been reported already - before the peak season.

Police have been meeting shopping centre managements as they brace themselves for the seasonal surge in armed robberies, when gunmen such as the gang that hit the Pavilion shopping centre in Durban this week, attack to fill specific orders from faceless paymasters.

The Pavilion shootout on Thursday was the fifth in two years where robbers grabbed handfuls of Rolex watches from Arthur Kaplan jewellery shops - three in Durban, one in Pretoria and a fifth in Rustenburg. Shopping centres have been beefing up their security ahead of the holiday rush and further measures will be put in place. A 32-yearold off-duty policeman, Insp Andre Mostert, was shot five times with semi-automatic assault rifles in the Pavilion shootout when he tried to stop a gang as it made its getaway.

Mostert was in a stable condition on Saturday, said police spokesperson, Supt Danelia Veldhuizen. The head of the Organised Crime Unit in KwaZulu-Natal, Dir Johan Booysen, said there would be increased security in coming weeks, including deploying the police air wing on high-risk days as well as putting it on standby throughout the period.

"We will have helicopters at the centres
when needed." Booysen said they did not want heavily-armed police or guards in the centres as they posed a potential risk for shoppers in shootouts.

He said centres were working with their local police stations to ensure rapid response to robberies. "We have also identified suspects from previous cases and intensified our investigations," said Booysen.

Assistant Commissioner Bushy Engelbrecht said security plans had been put in place after a spate of robberies three years ago.

"There is a lot we can do. We started a forum with major complexes and it has gained momentum," he said. 'Don't try to be a hero'

Major problems included the issue that surveillance cameras were seen as too costly, as well as inadequately trained guards.

He said hot spots had been identified and security has been stepped up, but criminals were wising up and getting more aggressive. It would be unrealistic to post policemen at every centre due to the number of malls.

Thursday's raid was the second in KwaZulu-Natal on the Arthur Kaplan jewellery chain in a matter of weeks. A branch in Gateway was robbed of Rolex watches last month. Rolex robbers also struck in December 2005 at the Menlyn Park centre in Pretoria. In June last year the Pavilion branch was targeted, followed by the Waterfall Mall in Rustenburg in November.

Senior researcher from the Institute of Security Studies and former police commissioner Johan Burger said between 2003 and 2006 there had been a 27 percent increase in robberies at shopping centres.

Michael Broughton, of the Consumer Goods Council's Crime Prevention Programme, said so far this year more than 230 robberies had been reported. He said these "made-to-order" robberies were a cause for concern as there must be a supply chain ordering specific products such as Rolex watches.

"We don't know whether the goods are taken to the Middle-East or elsewhere in Africa, but it is obvious it is for a specific market," he said.

He said, however, that shopping centres were generally safe. "There are about 4 100 shopping centres in the country - it amounts to a small percentage, but we are working with all the roleplayers to make it safer," said Broughton.

He said the council, police, Business Against Crime and shopping centre management met weekly and sometimes daily on national and provincial levels to discuss ways to combat attacks and train employees to be vigilant. He cautioned people about arming themselves when they went shopping. "If you see something suspicious, report it. Don't try to be a hero," he said.

However, Arthur Kaplan managing director, Dean Divaris, said not enough was being done and shopping malls should have access control 'like Israel' where there were metal detectors at the entrances.

"Malls should be a safe place, we don't need gates on our doors as it will not stop armed people getting into the centre," he said. "You need to control access and have proper response - retail tenants pay enough," said Devaris.

He said they were looking at electronic tagging of jewellery to discourage criminals. Preston Gaddy, managing director of the Pavilion, said there was already a large security presence at the centre and other initiatives were being introduced.

"Robberies are a serious concern and we are working closely with the police," Gaddy said. Some of the security measures at the Pavilion include undercover police patrols and boom gates. jani.meyer@inl.co.za

o This article was originally published on page 1 of Tribune on November 18, 2007
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