JOHANNESBURG (AA) – South African security agencies and business owners in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria, have beefed up security ahead of the holiday season, which usually sees a spike in robberies.
“I have employed one more security person to guard my store, although the shopping mall already has its security staff,” a Jewelry store owner at a Johannesburg mall told Anadolu Agency, refusing to give his name.
In the past two months, 11 robberies were reported at shopping malls in Gauteng province, where robbers mainly targeted cell phone, computer and jewelry shops.
In August, an electronics store was robbed of goods worth one million rand (roughly $90,000) in Centurion near Pretoria.
Four men entered the shop and briefly held the store manager before making off with items ranging from smart phones to laptops and tablets.
Many other stores in shopping malls have since been robbed.
Police have recently inaugurated an annual anti-crime campaign to coincide with the holiday season, which has seen a stepped-up police presence.
“The campaign has been rolled out throughout the country,” National Police spokesperson Solomon Makgale told AA.
“Several arrests have been made since the police launched a festive season operation,” he said, without divulging any more details.
Police vehicles have stepped up their presence in many parts of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Vehicles of private security companies are also frequently seen on patrol near the businesses and homes of their clients.
“The high police visibility gives people reassurance that they are protected,” Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies, told AA.
He said the launch of the seasonal anti-crime campaign was a positive move that had been largely successful.
“Attacks on shopping malls are a concern to all, not just authorities – even shoppers who go to these malls [are worried],” asserted the researcher.
He said robbers were normally not interested in targeting individual shoppers at malls, unless the latter confronted the robbers.
“Shoppers who want to be heroes by confronting the robbers or photographing/recording them on video is what could get them injured,” warned the expert.
South Africa has one of the highest crime rates on the continent, which some blame on poverty and unemployment.
Community policing groups in residential areas, meanwhile, have also stepped up patrols to ensure the safety of residents and their property.
“We have been patrolling our area every night to dissuade criminals from breaking into the homes of our residents,” Abdurrahman Nair, a member of the Mayfair Safety and Security Group, told AA.
He said burglaries were most common during the months of November and December because most residents travel for holidays.
“We have advised residents to alert us whenever they travel so that we can keep a watchful eye on their property,” added Nair.
South African businesses, for their part, have also expressed interest in working with police with a view to reducing crime.
“We are trying to create awareness by telling owners of stores and shopping centers to beef up security,” Simi Pillay-Van Graan, CEO of Business against Crime, a business NGO that helps the government fight crime, told AA.
She said her organization was planning to launch an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) scheme, which can determine if a car has been reported stolen or hijacked or if the owner was wanted by the authorities.
They are currently working on the project in partnership with the South African police service.
The initiative is aimed at supplying police with information on “vehicles of interest” with a view to reducing rising crime rates.
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