‘New’ breed of robbers target SA – security expert
JeVanne Gibbs for The Citizen
They are dressed smartly, drive luxury vehicles and are driven by greed. This is the “new” type of sophisticated and organised armed robbers currently targeting Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.
These robbers were said to be part of a broader spectrum of thieves which target banks specifically; while others are linked to hijackings, kidnappings and follow-home robberies that often originate at shopping malls.
Speaking to The Citizen security expert Dirk Jones described these criminals as the “play boys” of society.
“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 who is the Servest security managing director.
“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…
“If they came in an older vehicle, people would be able to identify them more easily; whereas if you are driving in a fancy vehicle, nobody sees you as suspicious.”
Crimes originating at malls have become more prevalent in Gauteng and around the country.
“Recent crime trends indicated that mall robberies occurred during the day, mostly between 8am and 10am,” said Jones.
“Restaurants, jewellery stores, cellphone shops and banks remain top targets, with an increase noted in ‘follow-home robberies’ where victims are followed home by robbers.”
Gauteng Police Commissioner Lesetja Mothiba confirmed on Tuesday that a national team of detectives has been assigned to help with investigations related to a spate of recent violent mall robberies.
Jones urged shopping malls to re-evaluate their security systems; prepare a proper risk analysis and to create a security culture on-site, as armed robberies were expected to increase in coming months.
Increase in Crime
Last year’s crime statistics indicated that business robberies had increased by 2,7% to 16 377 reported incidents.
There were an additional 426 armed attacks on businesses in 2012/13 as compared to the previous year. This crime type has increased by 345% in the past eight years.
Senior Researcher for the Institute for Security Studies’ crime and justice programme Dr Johan Burger said retail members of the Consumer Goods Council of SA in general had experienced an overall increase of 36% in aggravated robberies and a related increase of 67% in financial losses.
“The only sub-categories of aggravated robbery that showed persistent decreases in the past five years were bank and cash-in-transit robberies,” said Burger.
“These decreases can largely be attributed to the measures implemented by these industries to protect their assets.”
Jones maintains that a challenge with regard to such robberies is that suspects are released swiftly on bail following court appearances.
“The justice system lets us down by letting them out, as they almost immediately start robbing again,” he said.
“There are a number of aspects to mall security other than just straight forward armed robberies. We’ve noted that there’s a hijacking aspect linked to it as well as kidnapping.”
Jones said more than 4 000 kidnapping cases had been reported in 2013 which was concerning. He believes that consumers can be proactive by paying attention during robberies to possibly identify suspects, where possible.
“People are security illiterate; however, not talking about incidents is a problem as people are not aware of what’s happening,” he said.
“Education is needed.”