‘We’re very scared’- Church Street business owners

2017-07-21 13:37
A member of the police enters the store after an armed robbery at The FIX in Church Street on Wednesday afternoon.

A member of the police enters the store after an armed robbery at The FIX in Church Street on Wednesday afternoon. (Ian Carbutt)

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Church Street business owners fear for their safety, amid a spike in business robberies recently.

This follows two separate clashes between criminals and the police in the past week.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, an alleged criminal was shot dead in a standoff with police in the CBD.

On Wednesday, two suspects who tried to rob The FIX store on Church Street were wounded in a shootout with police. The two suspects were taken into custody, The Witness reported on Thursday.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese confirmed on Thursday that a third suspect remained at large, and added that a team had been set up to deal with crimes in the CBD.

Business owners in the city who spoke to The Witness said they had witnessed some form of crime on a regular basis. “We are very scared,” said a shop attendant at a DIY shop. “Yesterday our cameras caught two guys right here outside our shop. A month back, there was a fight across the road and a guy took out a gun and waved it around.

“There’s a school right here — what if that happened while children were walking here? Outside [our store] they grab people’s pants and just take things from their pockets and run.

“We are being careful and just pray to God. We just run in the shop if anything happens outside.

“Luckily we are only open from 8 am to 4.45 pm. I wonder how it is for supermarkets that open until 10 pm.”

A manager at a clothing shop said: “The other day we caught two people trying to steal shoes. So it’s not only armed guys; it’s also a lot of [petty] crimes.”

He said the shop would like to increase security, but they could not afford more security measures.

Another clothing shop staffer said: “They could just come here with guns and take all the bags on the wall. What can we do if that happens?”

An attendant at a food shop said: “We feel lucky because they don’t come for our food, but there is the cash here and we worry about that. Something needs to happen to stop all of this.”

Ngobese said they have noticed an increase in both armed robberies and common crime in the CBD.

“The number of firearms that criminals have, legal or illegal, is worrying. We are working on getting those firearms away from them and putting them behind bars.”

He said brazen criminals sometimes try to take the fight to the police. “We don’t want that; no one must get hurt, they must go to jail. But that’s how they treat police and it leaves us with no choice but to retaliate.”

CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business Melanie Veness said the chamber had received complaints from business owners in the CBD.

“They complain customers are not coming to the CBD. Sales have dipped, dramatically in some cases.”

She said there was a recent influx of people on the streets in the CBD. “There’s people there who engage in socially unacceptable behaviour [like] intimidating people and being disorderly.”

She said businesses had complained of increased crime in recent months.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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