Vigilance against syndicates

IT is a matter of grave concern that out-of-town crime syndicates could be targeting businesses and homes in Port Alfred.

There appear to be surges in burglary and robbery between quieter periods. There may be weeks of barely any criminal activity then a sudden spike over a few days.

Port Alfred’s shopping malls have been targeted in the past, most dramatically in a cash-in-transit heist and shootout at Rosehill Mall a few years ago.

Recently shops at the malls have been hit again in broad daylight, but mostly by shoplifting.

A favoured technique by the gangs of criminals is for some of them to distract staff while others steal merchandise or cellphones and laptops.

It becomes a more serious when violence or threats of violence is used, such as at a business in Bathurst Street this week, when the distraction technique was accompanied by robbery at knifepoint.

The malls have security personnel, but each shop is also meant to be responsible for its own security in-store.

It does become a problem, however, when security personnel are not visible, diminishing the deterrent factor. This has been one complaint about security at Rosehill.

From personal experience, it is rare to see security guards patrolling the mall, which is uniquely vulnerable by being remote and having so many entrances, and thus escape routes.

I recall some years how difficult it was to find a security guard to attend to some louts parked in a disabled parking bay at the mall, car radio blaring while they drank alcohol openly in the parking lot.

When I did finally manage to persuade a security guard to tell the louts to move on, her feeble attempt looked like a nonchalant chat with the offenders and yielded no response. They just carried on.

It took the assistant mall manager at the time to do the job of chasing them away, and well done to him.

If security cannot deal with the petty louts abusing disabled parking, how on earth will they be able to deal with more serious offences?

Security at that mall definitely requires some intervention. At one point, even the security cameras at Rosehill were not operating, which brought no relief to a woman whose car was broken into, as there was no footage of the incident.

As the holiday season approaches even more vigilance is required.

Kudos to the Port Alfred SAPS for assuring a more visible police presence in the CBD and at the malls over the holiday period.

– Jon Houzet

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