Cape Town - The safety of shoppers and tenants at malls has once again been highlighted by a spate of brazen robberies in the Western Cape and Gauteng.
Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the uptick in mall robberies and the methods being employed was of great concern for business in the region.
“The knock-on effect is that shoppers become wary of being in malls and restrict the time they spend there or avoid them altogether. Sharing information with one another is essential for companies to stay informed of new techniques and how to protect themselves.”
Simon Colman, underwriting executive at SHA Specialist Underwriters, a liability underwriting management agency, said the importance of comprehensive public liability cover had again been highlighted following the cases of armed robberies at Canal Walk and other centres.
Last week robbers made off with an estimated R1 million worth of Apple products as well at R2m worth of diamonds, rings and watches over the weekend.
On Tuesday, a gang of armed robbers arrived at the High Constantia shopping centre at about 4.30am and held up two security guards at gunpoint and stole women’s clothing as well as the guards’ cellphones before fleeing.
Other places targeted this year include shops at Long Beach Mall, Blue Route Mall, Cape Gate, Tyger Valley Centre, Bayside Mall and Zevenwacht Mall.
Colman said despite security and surveillance, there was an uptick in mall robberies towards the festive season.
He said in the case of robberies, South African law still required there to be negligence on the part of the property owner or shopkeeper in order to hold them liable for any injury to consumers.
“A robbery does not automatically impute liability on to the property owner/shop-keeper. Some unknown party is actually responsible for perpetrating the crime itself and would of course be criminally and civilly liable for the injuries and damages.”
Colman said from a shopping mall tenant perspective, one could argue that the attraction for a retailer to be in a shopping centre as opposed to out in the street, was the provision of security.
“This could justify action brought by the tenant retailer against the property owner for not providing adequate security. Similarly, a shopping centre that is repeatedly hit by robberies could see its foot traffic affected, this could lead to a drop in revenue causing retailers to seek recovery from the landlord.”
Singeon Green, account director at Risk Benefit Solutions said these incidents highlighted the need for the necessary risk management policies, as well as to ensure security measures such as CCTV surveillance, panic buttons and an adequately equipped safe within stores were in place.
“Insurance policy limits and exclusions should be revisited to ensure that adequate cover is in place should an incident occur, and should include the correct personal accident cover for employees in the event of injury as well as kidnap and ransom cover.”
Vanessa Herbst, marketing manager for Canal Walk said: “Canal Walk has taken immediate steps, increasing security presence and conducting random hand-held metal detector checks at entrances.”
She said the use of cutting-edge technology with highly visible policing and rapid emergency response had proved successful in curbing crime at Century City and also apprehending suspects of crime when committed. “The quick arrest of two suspects in the iStore robbery last week was thanks to the strong working relationship between SAPS and the security personnel of Canal Walk and the Century City Property Owner’s Association.”
Carla White, communications manager at the V&A Waterfront said: “We are aware that recent incidents at malls across the country naturally raises safety concerns. Our approach to security is multifaceted, with a high level of co-operation with the SAPS.”
White said security needed to be viewed as a partnership and the centre management encouraged its tenants to act responsibly when managing high-value stock, transporting their stock and banking.
“We also encourage consumers to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour to a member of our security team, who can then assess and alert SAPS if need be.”
Cara White, communications consultant for Redefine Properties, which manages N1 City and Blue Route Malls on behalf of Fountainhead Properties, said sophisticated security systems were in place across all their properties and management followed a comprehensive set of security procedures. “We encourage our retailers and the SAPS to work with mall management and security to take a strong stand against all kinds of crime.”