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Malls need detailed security plans: expert

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A recent string of mall robberies have posed a serious threat to customers and retailers and have shown the short-comings of security guards and the police with the response to these incidents.

This past weekend, Trigg Jewelers’ inside Cavendish square mall in Claremont was robbed for the second time, which again places the spotlight on safety and security plans at shopping centres.

Dr Johan Burger Senior Researcher for the Governance, Crime and Justice Division at the Institute for Security Studies says that places tend to be targeted more than once because criminals know the property well and they know precisely what security measures are in place. Burglars come to learn what the security weaknesses are and they will also probably know any changes to the security measures.

“There needs to be major changes in the security measures once you have been a victim of this crime to create some sort of deterrence for future attacks,” Dr Burger explained.

Usually during the festive season sees a spike in business robberies, simply due to the fact that there is more cash available.

However, during this past festive season Western Cape police reported that there was a decrease in business robberies, due to more preparedness for the busy season.

“To the credit of police they have managed to put together festive season operations which is aimed at providing high visible police presence in these so called hot spots areas,” says Dr Burger.

“That has achieved a huge amount of deterrence in places previously targeted so that may have contributed to a decline where as in the past we have seen an increase.”

Furthermore, shopping malls are built to allow customers to move around freely so it’s about easy access and visibility for criminals to access.

“The moment you try and make it difficult for criminals to access then you similarly make it difficult for ordinary customers to access these premises,” Dr Burger said.

“Shopping malls need to find a balance between putting in place measures that would act as a deterrent and allowing free access to customers”.

Dr Burger says that part of the deterrence should be visible security guards that are well trained and that presents in the manner that they conduct themselves some sort of professional deterrence towards would be criminals.

“And of course CCTV cameras that are well placed that are well operated in terms of those who monitor what they see and active on them in terms of reaction,” Dr Burger continued.

“Especially when there has been a spat of robberies at a particular mall there needs to be good cooperation with police who can provide outer perimeter police visibility you would not want to deploy police officers inside the mall especially not armed police officers, but if they are deployed outside then you have unarmed guards in the mall and armed police in the outer perimeter because criminals will be aware that there is a possibility that they would run into police outside the building.”

He advised that high targeted jewellery shops be placed further inside the mall that will make the shop easier to secure. This will ensure stricter movement control in that area than in the rest of the shopping mall.

But security expert Dirk Jones has warned that there is a more sophisticated and organised armed robbery syndicate operating in commercial hubs. They don’t look like typical criminals, and are instead dressed smartly and unassuming.

“They dress in nice suits, they rob… they hijack high-end vehicles that they then use in hijackings, as seen happening in Sandton,” said Jones.

“We see it mostly in the affluent areas where the robbers don’t stick out, because they are driving vehicles which are the same as the vehicles other people in those areas are driving…”

Police are still searching for the criminals that robbed the jewellery store in Claremont at the weekend. The public is also asked to remain vigilant and secure their belongings when out in public.

VOC (Umarah Hartley)

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