Retail stores raise concerns over crime scourge after theft incidents
PROMPTED by a theft at a store in Rosehill Mall last week, one of several thefts in malls that have occurred in broad daylight, police as well as store-owners believe the crimes are not random but coordinated.
Tony Pieterse of Quest Leisure at Rosehill Mall was the latest victim when, according to SAPS spokeswoman Captain Mali Govender, three women entered the store and, while keeping the sales staff at the far end, three men entered and stole merchandise from the rails and shelves.
Other store owners said they believed such thefts are coordinated by gangs from out of town, saying that the Port Alfred gangs might travel to Port Elizabeth and vice versa to avoid detection by police.
“They need to reposition the cameras to cover the entrances,” said Pieterse. “And the mall security should be more visible.”
Heritage Mall manager Geoff Southey explained that mall management is responsible for security in the mall itself, but not the stores within the mall.
“Stores must provide their own in-store security,” Southey said.
Manager of Tekkie Town at Rosehill, Jackie Dirk, was just one of many store owners who said she taught her staff to be more vigilant and to keep an eye out for any customers exhibiting suspicious behaviour.
Clivonne Jones, manager of Sportscene at Rosehill, also trains her staff to identify suspicious behaviour.
At Heritage Mall Pick n Pay manager Alan Page said he felt satisfied with the security set up in his store. Pick n Pay employs its own security officers and also uses outside security when necessary. Marsha Andrews of Mr Price said she was always careful to be vigilant.
Dennis White, franchise owner of Wimpy as well as Fishaways and Debonairs at Heritage Mall said security at the mall was always visible while stores are open. However, he said that security at the stores accessed at the mall periphery were more vulnerable to theft than those within the mall. But he added that security personnel would remain visible until these stores closed.
The two malls present different problems in terms of security. While Heritage Mall is in the CBD and only has two entrances, RoseHill Mall is set far away from town and has at least five entrances, including goods receiving entry points.
“It’s difficult to manage security to cover all entrances,” said Gert Jordaan, Rosehill Mall manager.
“However, the owners of the mall have agreed to increase the number of cameras and to employ more security personnel, particularly over the Christmas period.”
Jordaan added that he was always open to speak with shop owners regarding making the mall safer for stores as well as customers.
Govender explained that the modus operandi of the criminal elements was to distract the salesperson while another group come in and steal goods.
“One tip is not hanging items with hangers facing the same direction,” she said. “Alternate the hanging direction. This makes it more difficult for suspects to get the clothes off the rails.”
The police have drafted a pamphlet on how syndicates operate, and distributed these to stores in Port Alfred.
“Awareness campaigns have also been conducted around the shopping malls. We have intensified our visibility in the CBD and at the malls and this will continue throughout the festive period and until criminals get the message that they’re being watched and move out of the area,” said Govender.