The Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry is planning a multi-stakeholder meeting to address the issue of crime in the city’s commercial hubs.

This in the wake of a string of brazen armed robberies at stores in shopping malls in and around Durban.

Chief executive of the chamber Dumile Cele said yesterday that the prevalence of this type of crime was of serious concern to the business community.

“It has highly negative effects on doing business in those areas,” Cele said, “Crime infested areas are a deterrent to consumers who naturally avoid shopping in areas where they do not feel safe.”

And, Cele said, this crime had a ripple effect.

“Such precincts deter investors as they become high-risk areas with no promise of a return on investment,” she said.

“Our economy just cannot afford the added strain of growing crime statistics anywhere but more especially in high activity commercial nodes such as our shopping centres.”

In recent weeks and months, a number of jewellery and watch shops – as well as at least one second-hand store and at least one cellphone store – in some of the city’s busiest centres have fallen victim to crime.

Most recently, a gang of five hammer-wielding gunmen stormed The Workshop – in the CBD – early on Saturday morning and broke into a clothing store.
Blue Security operations manager Brian Jackson said two of them were wearing balaclavas.

“The armed robbers walked into the mall and pointed their firearms at security guards on site before using a hammer to smash their way into a clothing store. They smashed the front door down and grabbed clothing and cash before fleeing the scene,” Jackson said.

He said the gang made off in a vehicle that had been parked in Dr AB Xuma (formerly Commercial) Street.

Last month, a gang reportedly used a similar modus operandi to break into a shop in the Southway Mall in Seaview and stole tens of thousands of rands worth of goods.

And a jewellery shops at the Pearls Mall in Umhlanga, Cash Crusaders, in the Atrium, Watches Unlimited and MTN – both at Musgrave Centre – as well as NWJ at Westwood Mall were also reportedly robbed last month.

In March, Mayuri Jewellers in Chatsworth Centre was hit.

And in January, three stores – including Natal Wholesale Jewellers (NWJ) in Musgrave Centre, Osiniq Jewels at the Hilton Hotel and Cajee at Gateway – were targeted.

Cele said the chamber had, in partnership with all stakeholders, been driving a theme of “Together Busting Crime and Grime” in Durban and this was aimed at protecting existing investment and attracting additional investment to grow the region’s economy.

“The recent spurt of robberies calls for all stakeholders to come together to discuss interventions to curb this onslaught on businesses,” she said, “Business is willing to work together with law enforcement agencies to address crime affecting commerce and industry in our city”.  

Cele said the chamber would be announcing a date for its planned meeting.

“In the meantime, we urge all business people and consumers to remain vigilant and on high alert against such criminal elements,” she said. - Mercury Reporter