Malls up security for hassle-free shopping

2014-12-08 00:00

WITH organised crime syndicates targetting bustling shopping malls this festive season, guaranteed safety while shopping would be a Christmas miracle.

South Africa has seen as a sharp rise in mall robberies this year, with numerous planned attacks on high-end technology, jewellery and clothing stores.

So what have KZN malls done to stop thieves sneaking down their chimneys this Christmas?

The Witness asked the province’s busiest malls in Durban and Pietermaritzburg what they would do to keep shoppers safe.

Collectively, the first step the malls are taking is optimising the “on-the-ground” security. This means there will be an increase of security guards in the malls and parking lots.

They are also working closely with the police and according to spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane, “the police will be everywhere this festive season to make sure that the citizens of this country are safe at all times”.

The Pavillion Shopping Centre in Durban announced they have completed the installation of security fencing in their undercover parking area and have installed additional CCTV cameras in all open parking lots.

According to ISS senior researcher Johan Burger, these steps are a good deterrent but more can be done in the future in terms of tackling organised crime syndicates.

Burger says there are two approaches: the law enforcement approach and the mall management approach.

According to him, increased police visibility is a good deterrent but he advises against deploying armed police within the premises as this raises the risk of shootouts.

“In the long term, police need to step up their investigations into suspected mall robbers. They are struggling in this area as they need better crime intelligence units to identify operating syndicates.”

In terms of management, Burger said that while the presence of unarmed security is good at combating petty crimes, criminals involved in organised crime syndicates do not regard them as a threat but “in a way it does provide reassurance to the public”.

Burger said that criminals from organised syndicates must be properly distinguished from petty criminals and need to be dealt with differently.

He said they target exclusive stores and not ordinary shoppers, and will try to avoid using firearms as they want to get in and out quickly without drawing attention to themselves.

“Syndicates are not interested in shoppers. The public should avoid confronting these criminals. Do not photograph them. Do not run or scream and cause panic. They regard their own safety as paramount. They are also nervous, and the moment people cause panic, they lose it,” Burger said.

Burger also said that malls and shops, although it would take a lot of effort and money in the future, should try to limit the stock in their shops and group high target businesses in one specific access-controlled area of the mall.

“If you limit your stock to nothing more than you need on a daily basis, you are in a sense making your shop less attractive to criminals.

“Malls could also have an barrier-controlled area of shopping where all high-risk shops are grouped,” Burger said.

Safety tips while shopping:

• A man should carry his wallet in the front pocket of his pants.

• A woman should hold her bag close to her body, with the opening facing toward her.

• Consolidate purchases into one or two large shopping bags so you can keep track of everything.

Parking tips:

• Park as close to entrances and exits as you can.

• Stow your purchases in the boot. If your purchases are left in plain view, you may return to find your car windows smashed and your presents stolen.

• Save your most expensive purchases for last, so you can head straight home.

• Before leaving the pay station ensure that you have your vehicle keys in your hand. This will ensure that you do not have to be distracted or look for keys when arriving at the vehicle.

• Before entering the car, check that no one is hiding in the back seat.

— Supplied by

police spokesperson

Major Thulani Zwane.

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