From the news desk

CT mall robbers pose as customers

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Western Cape police, together with mall security across the province, are doing an assessment on the spate of robberies which hit shopping centres over the past few months.

“We are busy with security assessments to see where are the gaps and then to see where can we address those gaps,” said deputy Western Cape police commissioner Maj-Gen Sharon Jephta on Sunday.

Jephta said the robbers appeared to be targeting mostly jewellery stores and cellphone shops.

“In most cases,[it is] MTN cell shops which are close to the entrances in malls or strip malls that they target,” Jephta said.

“They normally pose as customers prior to the robbery and even hit if there are clients inside.”

So far, police had arrested 15 people over the past few months for either being part of the robberies or for illegal possession of the stolen cellphones.

“We are busy with investigations and we are analysing footage and we are analysing the modus operandus. We could however not link the 15 suspects together,” Jephta said.

Detectives were having a hard time tracing suspects through their fingerprints.

“They will not touch those phones on display… to leave any prints,” said Jephta.

“They use pistols and when the security officials at these malls are on patrol during these robberies, they threaten them and take them also into the stock room… so they can’t alert the other security.”

The robbers were able to walk away with the loot rather than run.

“In some instances, the security doesn’t know about the robbery because the suspects leave the premises with a bag with the cellphones and they do not make a scene when they leave,” said Jephta.

The SA Police Service was working with Business Against Crime to tackle the robberies.

Police would increase patrols at malls, but would not release details of their operations.

“The rest of our operational approach I cannot divulge because if it’s out there our criminals might see what we plan to do and then they will have another operation in place,” she said.

Several shopping malls, including Canal Walk, Tyger Valley and Zewenwacht, have been hit by robbers over the past few months.

BAC Western Cape member Andrew Anthony said: “Obviously especially the jewellery and cellphone shop owners are very worried about this.

“They’ve indicated they hope the collective approach… will bring these robberies to an end very soon”

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