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Athlone business crime worrying: Chamber

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The Cape Chamber of Commerce says while it is concerned about the spate of targeted crime on Athlone businesses, it will not speculate that these attacks are the work of gangsters. The recent spate of violence in Athlone has raised the fears of local shop owners who suspect gangs could be targeting their businesses for extortion purposes.

Last week, a bomb was detonated outside a shopping complex in Kromboom road, followed by another bomb minutes later at an auto dealer in Belgravia road. Police are still investigating the two cases of malicious damage to properties and no arrests have yet been made.

The Cape Chamber of Commerce said that if this criminal activity is evidence of a protection racket then it is a serious issue which would require immediate intervention. The Chambers president, Janine Myburgh explained that the concerns of business owners in the area are at this point based on speculation. She added that until a police investigation determines that local gangs are in fact targeting businesses, the chamber cannot go forward with the matter.

“It is therefore of the utmost importance that police expedite their investigation so that we can stop speculating and deal with the underlying problem,” Myburgh said.

The Chamber plans to meet with local business owners to assess the situation.

Over the past few months, a number of businesses have fallen victim to armed robberies, sometimes through violent means. Elite Cash and Carry, MA Distributors, Jimmy’s Motorspares and The Lounge on Kromboom are amongst the businesses targeted. In June, Salma Shreef, the wife of Jimmy’s Motor Spares owner Ebrahim Shreef was shot and killed by robbers who attacked her upon pulling up into her garage at home.

Organised criminal gangs have designated “spotters” that look-out for people who make cash deposits at banks or ATMs. Once the victims have been identified, the information is passed on to members of the syndicate, who will then rob the victims either at their place of residence, business or en route to the bank or ATM.

“As of recent years, business owners who deposit their daily or weekly cash at banks or ATMs have become a focussed target for armed robbers,” says Richard Phillips, joint CEO of Cash Connect Management Solutions.

Since more than 90% of business robberies take place with insider participation, the risk of the person moving the cash from the business premises to the bank or ATM is extremely high.

Phillips says business owners can no longer be oblivious to the fact that manual deposits of large amounts of cash, is both a life-threatening risk and generally an expensive exercise.

“South African business owners have to rethink the ways they handle and safeguard their hard-earned cash – they are putting themselves, their staff and their customers at risk,” says Phillips. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)

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