High-end businesses in Cape Town CBD targeted as armed robberies hit 'unprecedented' levels

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Criminals have turned their sights to high-end businesses in the Cape Town CBD, which has resulted in "unprecedented levels" of armed robberies, according to the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID).

CCID safety and security manager Muneeb Hendricks told News24 on Friday that a specific syndicate was operating in the area.

"In the CBD, four businesses have been affected but these perpetrators have hit other areas as well," he said.

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Geoff Jacobs said crime had become a major problem for both businesses and employees in Cape Town, with 95% of its members saying crime had become a significant concern.

In a news alert to more than 250 retailers, hotels and business owners this week, Hendricks warned that robbers were targeting high-end retailers and businesses that sold items such as jewellery, cameras and cellphones.

The robbers were well-dressed men who were usually armed and commonly operated in groups of two to four.

"Their modus operandi is to watch venues from vehicles and then strike. They enter the premises, order staff to comply with their requests, collect and pack up high-end items and flee - all within minutes of entering the store," Hendricks stated in the notice.

"The SA Police Service (SAPS) has asked us to inform stakeholders to be extremely vigilant and to exercise extreme caution."

The CCID circulated information about the syndicate to all agencies and Licence Plate Recognition networks.

As a result, five people were apprehended in the southern suburbs on Thursday with "incriminating evidence", Hendricks told News24.

"We hope that this excellent arrest by SAPS will bring these armed robberies to an end, but we are still asking business owners and their staff to be vigilant.

A slick operation

The upmarket Mount Nelson Hotel, which is a popular choice for international tourists and celebrities, was hit by 15 armed men on Tuesday night, News24 reported.

In what appeared to be a slick operation involving two vehicles, the gang held up security guards and robbed guests and staff of their personal belongings.

They then ransacked the foyer, using big hammers to break the glass cabinet display windows, while also removing jewellery and making off with an undisclosed amount of money from the hotel cash register, according to Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk.

Christoff Jewellers inside the hotel declined to comment at this stage.

Earlier this month, four masked and armed men robbed The Diamonds Work shop opposite the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

The men struggled with security officials and made off with an undisclosed amount of jewellery in broad daylight.

The area has security guards, CCTV cameras and the City of Cape Town's security marshalls.

Jacobs said stores which dealt mainly in cash were most at risk, while businesses within a complex of some kind did best as they had controlled entrances and exits.

"Standalone businesses are vulnerable and we are beginning to see notices reading: 'No Cash. All payments by card or a cellphone app.'"

The chamber's members indicated in a survey that they were forced to cough up for their own security arrangements as they felt the police were not assisting.

"The increasing number of 'improvement districts' and 'neighbourhood watches' provide the evidence of their concern and their attempts to deal with the situation," said Jacobs.

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