DURBAN - A WEEK-long spree of day-time business robberies in Durban’s CBD has heightened calls for greater visibility and rapid response from police.
The Sunday Tribune has learned that armed robbers made off with large sums of cash, cellphones, computers and other stock items from at least nine business in the Durban CBD between May 18 and 25.
It is yet to be established whether the robberies were gang-related or isolated incidents. Below are details of the nine business robberies:
May 19, Just Health Pharmacy was robbed by seven armed men at around 1pm, two of them approached the cashiers and collected undisclosed amount of notes
May 20, a meat wholesaler was broken into on Umgeni Road. Computers, monitors and cash in a safety box with an undisclosed amount was taken.
May 21, A shop was robbed on Umgeni Road at around 6am. Computers, screens, plasma and cellphones were taken.
May 21, another business was robbed on Simiso Nkwanyana Road, office equipment and cell phones was taken
May 22, a recycling company on Stamford Hill was broken into, cash and three cell phones were taken.
May 22, a clothing boutique was robbed on Anton Lembede Street, a big bag full of various clothing was taken.
May 22, A cellphone shop on Yusuf Dadoo (Grey) Street was robbed by two armed men. The gun-wielding criminals pointed the shop owner with a firearm and got away with cellphones, tools and cigarettes.
May 23, two armed man approached the shopkeeper on Joe Slovo Street. They then forced open the safe and fled with an undisclosed amount of money.
May 24, A clothing factory on Queen Street was robbed. Two armed men demanded cash from the factory owner demanding cash. They fled with cellphones only as there was no cash in the factory.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele confirmed all the cases. She said investigations were still underway and no arrests have been made.
"We urge the community to contact the police with any information that might lead to the arrest of suspects,” said Mbhele.
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Some business owners complained that the rampant crime in city had severely hampered trade and they were contemplating closing shop.
Hoosen Dawood, owner of the Just Health Pharmacy on Joe Slovo (formerly Field) Street that was robbed on Friday, said that although no one was harmed during the robbery, his staff were left traumatised.
Dawood said seven armed men gun pointed guns at the pharmacy’s tellers and made off with all the cash only.
“This has become a trend in the CBD, especially on the busy streets. The cosmetic store next to my business has been robbed twice in a month recently. We need greater police visibility. Although we’ve increased security, including CCTV cameras, still are left helpless when robbers strike,” complained Dawood.
On the same day, robbers also struck at meat wholesaler on Umgeni Road. Several computers and cash safety box with an undisclosed amount of money were taken.
Clinton Hoar, a clothing boutique owner in the Durban CBD said crime was out of control.
“I have been trading here for 25 years. Never before has robberies and break-ins been as frequent. The crime situation has deteriorated over the last 18 months. The lives of our staff are constantly at risk and some customers are reluctant to shop in the city,” said Hoar.
He accused the eThekwini Municipality of failing in its duty to make the city safe, therefore it is fast becoming a haven for criminals.
Hoar claimed that 80% of the CCTV cameras in the CBD did not work.
“I have visited the city’s camera control room and seen for myself. There is also a need for more police visibility and they need to be fit and well trained,” Hoar suggested.
Metro Police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Parboo Sewpersad said the city was working on a joint operation with the SAPS to curb crime in the city.