Yet another mall shop, this time in Montclair Mall, was victim to a hammer gang this morning. Picture: Leon Lestrade.

Durban – A brazen gang used hammers and crowbars to force their way into a cell phone shop in Montclair Mall before the opening of business this morning. It was the latest of a string of similar incidents in and around Durban in the past month.

Business owners said it was the second time the centre had been hit in a week and that since the last incident opening hours had changed from 6am to 7am.

However, the gang smashed locks at the mall entrance, ordered the centre’s unarmed security guards to leave them alone and proceeded to hammer the thick glass windows of the Vodacom shop. Then, in a one minute and 20 second visit, they cleared out about R200 000 of Pakistani owner Moon Wounis’s stock.

“It doesn’t feel nice,” he said. “They must be targeting foreigners. It must be that they are jealous. They don’t like us.”

The gang used crowbars to shatter the glass display cabinets. Close circuit television footage showed their entire foray.

Alarms went off and two security companies were altered – Enforce, used by the centre and ADT used by the shop. Police also arrived. The Montclair police station is a short distance down Wood Road from the Montclair Mall.

Last Friday last week a gang broke into PC Direct, a television shop at the entrance of the shopping centre at opening time, helping themselves to two sets mounted on the wall. Yesterday the shop’s one door remained closed, still damaged from their forced entry.

Close circuit television footage of yesterday’s brazen hammer intrusion into a cell phone shop at Montclair Mall.

Shoppers and business owners in the centre expressed their shock and surprise.

Lionel Allan who has a speed printer business said that apart from two or three incidents in the past month, the Montclair Mall had not had an incident in more than 12 years. “There's not much one can do except to catch them. That would be the only way to stop them,” he said, adding that it would terrible for business if people stayed away from malls.

Phyllip van der Merwe who visited the centre  was angry that gangs kept getting away with crimes likes this. “They need to catch them. It must be the same guys all the time.”

Police spokeswoman Captain Nqobile Gwala said Montclair police were investigating a case of business burglary. She added that they took laptops and cellphones before escaping in a getaway vehicle. “A provincial task team is investigating business robbery cases around the province.

“We are appealing to anyone who can assist the police about the suspects involved in the recent burglary businesses to contact our Crime Stop number on 08600 10111.”