Rise in armed robberies reported since lockdown level has eased
DURBAN - THERE has been a rise in aggravated robberies since the lockdown levels have been eased.
This is according to Institute for Security Studies (ISS) consultant Dr Johan Burger.
He was commenting after robberies last week at the Pavilion shopping centre and another shopping centre, south of Durban.
The Pavilion shopping centre general manager Nisha Kemraj confirmed that armed men robbed a jewellery store on Wednesday.
“Security responded and this led to a shoot-out with the robbers. Unfortunately, a patron was injured in the leg and taken to hospital. He is reportedly in a stable condition,” she said.
Colonel Thembeka Mbele, KwaZulu-Natal provincial police spokesperson, said staff at the jewellery store were accosted by three armed men. “The suspects assaulted them, demanded the safe keys and took a bag with various jewellery items. The security guards confronted the suspects. A shoot-out ensued between the guards and the suspects and a civilian was shot in the crossfire,” Mbele said.
The man sustained a gunshot wound to his right knee, while an employee sustained assault wounds on the body and face.
Mbele said Westville police were investigating cases of robbery, assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and attempted murder.
In the second armed robbery at a shopping centre last Thursday, Mbele said, an off-duty policeman was a customer in a shop when he was accosted and robbed of his firearm. The robbers also took laptops.
Burger said criminals were exploiting the current Covid-19 regulations including mask wearing.
“Since everyone is wearing masks, people are not shocked by such a modus operandi. It has given them an excuse… they know there are CCTV cameras all over the place, and security would be looking at footage while they previously could not wear masks without raising suspicion; now it’s almost impossible to identify them from CCTV footage,” he said.
Burger said there was a significant reduction in such crimes during lockdown levels 5 and 4, but incidents had increased as the lockdown eased.
“You could see on the police crime stats, as we moved to the less severe lockdown levels, there was a gradual increase in crime, which is to a large extent clearly associated with the gradual easing of the lockdown regulations,” he said.
Criminals sometimes changed their robbery targets depending on the amount of attention they received from law-enforcement authorities, he said.
“Criminals do their own risk/threat analysis. When it becomes too risky, they move on to another crime, or geographically into another area or something they find less risky. We saw this with CIT (cash-in-transit) robberies, when there were joint operations with police and other security initiatives with successes and arrests, then the criminals will move into a new area or type of robbery like mall robberies which is a softer target with less risks,”
“Malls are soft targets. Because of the masks the robber’s identity is hidden, there are no armed security at malls, rightly so, and there is a low risk of anyone shooting at them.”
Burger said that in shopping malls, criminals had easy access and free flow to the stores and valuables.
He said the only way to combat this was to beef up the security for the stores that were usually targeted.
“Increase and improve the security at these specific stores, similar to that of a bank. Make it difficult for more than one person to enter or exit; that is a deterring factor, especially because criminals rely on a show of force and move around in groups, but where there is strict access control, it makes it difficult for them to enter – they do their own risk analysis.”