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Durban - We can’t fight crime by ourselves. We have to join forces. That was the consensus that emerged from a “crime summit” held in Durban on Wednesday that saw top provincial police officers sit down with retailers, banks and private security companies in a push to curb robberies ahead of the festive shopping season.
Retailers including Spar, Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Massmart and Boxer were among the group that met provincial police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni to thrash out plans to protect their businesses and customers as criminals continue to hit “easy targets”.
The consolidated crime fighting forum, which includes Business Against Crime, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), is aimed at enabling stakeholders to share and update critical information about crime.
Neal Tomlinson, representing Boxer Superstores, said the chain had experienced 18 robberies this year, at a cost of about R3.5 million, with the uMlazi branch the hardest hit.
Nico Potgieter from Enforce security, the company that guards Spar, said the same perpetrators committed cash-in-transit heists and retail robberies.
“The only way to combat robberies is to work hand-in-hand with police and not point fingers,” he said.
Jody Nair, the KZN head of Business Against Crime, said retailers had to stop working in isolation and synchronise crime-combating initiatives.
Ngobeni agreed: “I will be the first to acknowledge that police alone cannot solve the crime situation in this province and we need to partner with those who are affected to find workable solutions.
“We are convinced that this strong partnership will be felt by criminals in this province.”
Recent crime statistics showed all business crimes in the province were up by as much as 18 percent.
On Wednesday some chain-store representatives called for crime-fighting resources to be centralised and for police to reinstate their organised crime units, saying their disbandment had resulted in the increase in robberies.
Johan Burger, the senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, agreed, saying the decentralising of specialised units, the Serious and Violent Crimes Unit in particular, had weakened the police.
“A lot of experienced police were lost to priority units,” he said, and this had contributed to the increase in business robberies.
“This resulted in ordinary police carrying the burden. There is a great need for the re-establishment of these units,” he said.
Ngobeni said special units were formed to combat “identified crimes”, but could be disbanded if and when they had completed the task or if they were deemed a failure.
Although forum members were still to be chosen, she said, the structure would meet monthly to “come up with strategies to fight crime, ensure that everything is done to implement these strategies, as well as monitor and evaluate progress”.
“This partnership comes at the right time and will be put to the test as we prepare for the festive season shopping rush,” she said.