With the onset of the festive season, security at malls in South Africa has been tightened and measures taken to ensure that shoppers do not feel “they are entering war zone but rather they are shopping.”
The Shopping Centre Security Initiative, the South African Council of Shopping Centres, the South African Property Owners’ Association, the Consumer Goods Council of SA and Business Against Crime SA have joined forces to reduce crime and violence at shopping malls, media reports said.
The security measures have been undertaken in a way that they do not discourage or hamper shoppers from visiting the malls.
“We have taken measures which are unobtrusive and the shoppers should feel at ease,”said an official.
Police statistics for 2006-2007 show that robberies at businesses, including shops and shopping centres, had risen 52.5 percent compared to the previous 12 months.
The project manager for Business Against Crime, Jenni Irish- Qhobosheane, said the number of attacks by armed robbers in shopping centres had decreased by 30 percent since November.
According to figures compiled by Business Against Crime, 265 violent crimes at shopping malls were reported between January and June. Of these crimes, 216 involved cash robberies in shopping centres.
During August , police arrested 900 suspects, some of whom were on their most- wanted list.
Business Against Crime’s chief executive officer, Siphiwe Nzimande, said: “The more arrests we have, the more crime at malls will go down.”
Irish-Qhobosheane was tight- lipped about the details of how security is being tightened at shopping malls.
Current plans to control violent crime at shopping malls are such that they can be successful in checking it, said a researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Johan Burger.
“I don’t think we can ever rule out crime [entirely], but I think that this initiative is good, reassuring and will act as a deterrent to criminals,” he said.