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‘Mall heists unlikely to be a syndicated operation’

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Following a spate of mall robberies that have hit the Western Cape during the last few weeks, reports have suggested the wave of crime may be linked to a larger crime syndicate operating within the country. Western Cape malls have been hard by the new crime trend, with Canal Walk stores having been targeted thrice over the last two weeks.

However, senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Dr. Johan Burger, said there was little evidence to prove this was in fact a syndicated operation. Although refusing to rule it out as a possibility, he said little incite would be available until an arrest was made.

“Usually the modus operandi of these syndicates is a tell-tale of whether it was the same syndicate or not,” he said.

Instead, Burger raised the possibility that the robberies were being committed by so called ‘copy-cat’ gangs. These were groups that took heed of crimes that were receiving particular media attention, and tried to follow the same method, viewing it as a lucrative way of doing business.

“If the police catch these criminals, you see an immediate drop in the specific crime type,” he said.

Some have blamed the lack of harsh sentences in the criminal justice system, as a reason for the high rate in such heists. But Burger was insistent that the matter was multifold. To deal with the issue, he said that visibility policing was vital, as well as proper crime analysis.

“This means determining where the hotspots are, and making sure there is a police presence that is enough to deter those criminals from committing these crimes again,” he said.

Burger said they had seen several incidents, particularly with bank robberies and cash in transit heists, where people working within the companies were cooperating with the criminals. He suggested this could be possible with the shopping mall robberies as well, with staff or security guards potentially being complicit.

“We have some extremely honest and dedicated security officials, so it is really difficult to say this outright. There have been many cases before, but there have been as many cases where we have seen very solid performances by private security individuals,” he stressed.

There have been a total of 15 reported incidents since September, with the most recent leading to a fatal shooting of a security guard at the Waterstone Village Centre in Somerset West. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)


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