Cellphone retailer Cellucity, which opened its doors in 1994, has not been targeted by armed robbers for 25 years, until this year.
The company experienced six armed robbery attempts in the past six months – all in the Western Cape.
While not the only stores being targeted for high-value goods in and around Cape Town, it’s a sign that crime has evolved, policing is strained, and people are feeling the pressure of a struggling economy, Cellucity and Apple Doctor CEO Sean Joffe tells News24.
“Stores most affected are those where there are no parking booms and inadequate security. Malls that have visible armed response on their perimeters are completely free of any of this crime,” he said.
It recently emerged that the Cape Town CBD had seen “unprecedented levels” of armed robberies, with gangs focusing on high-end retailers and businesses that sold items such as jewellery, cameras and cellphones.
On Wednesday, a jewellery store at the upmarket Cape Quarter shopping complex became the latest target of armed robbers in Cape Town.
An armed gang robbed Cape Town’s Diamond Works shop opposite the Cape Town International Convention Centre last month, News24 reported.
The Mount Nelson Hotel was hit by 15 men who threatened staff and guests before making off with personal belongings and jewellery from an on-site store.
Cape Town Central Improvement District (CCID) safety and security manager Muneeb Hendricks named three other businesses that were affected in the CBD.
They are Cameraland, a Vodacom outlet on the corner of Adderley and Longmarket Streets, and a cellphone shop on the corner of Strand and Burg streets.
Police subsequently arrested a group of men believed to be behind a spate of armed robberies, allegedly while in possession of firearms.
The Daily Voice reported that they were believed to be behind the Mount Nelson Hotel robbery.
Joffe, who has 32 stores across the country, said that some of his stores had been robbed repeatedly but because of heavy investments in security measures, the losses were quite negligible.
The latest three attempts to rob stores were completely unsuccessful.
“As we have improved our security the criminals have moved to other easier targets,” he said.
“The good news is that there have been several arrests but these criminals spawn like a virus into new criminal cells.”
Joffe said very little of the stolen goods were recovered.
“The phones are blacklisted and rendered useless in South Africa, but they can be exported to neighbouring countries or sold to chop shops for parts,” he explained.
“The next time you buy a screen for your iPhone from a dodgy store, ask yourself where they got the stock.”
Joffe felt that the police now understood the gravity of the situation and he was confident that they would catch all those responsible, on the back of several victories.
“Information on any attempt anywhere in the Western Cape is shared, making [it] easier to identify the criminals.”
Western Cape police said they were still hunting down those responsible.