Mall cops. Welcome to SA
For years, armed thugs have instilled fear among shoppers during the festive season. Shopping malls became easy targets for robbers wanting to make a quick buck. Cash-in-transit heists became too taxing and the rewards were just not worth it.
With lax security, stores in shopping malls – especially those selling luxury goods – proved to be easy pickings.
Attacks at malls in South Africa’s major centres have become commonplace, with criminals fleeing with goods costing millions of rands.
Shoppers, who were invariably caught up in the armed robberies, chose to vote with their feet and wallets by staying away during the festive season.
Fast-forward to this year’s holidays, and things are looking different. Malls are buzzing with activity and shoppers are swiping their plastic cards like there’s no tomorrow.
What has changed in the past year or so, and why have there been few or no reports of shopping malls being targeted by criminals?
Malls have undergone major security upgrades to make it difficult for criminals to escape once stores are attacked.
Perimeter fences have been erected and single entrances built to ensure that customers use common entrances rather than several open ones.
Surveillance systems have been installed and plain clothes security guards, on the alert for suspicious characters, mingle among shoppers.
In addition to the beefed-up security, the SA Police Service (SAPS) has deployed student constables, with uniformed officers, to patrol shopping malls.
Officers in uniform are now a common sight at malls, so much so that some generous shoppers can sometimes be seen buying cool drinks and ice cream to help refresh officers who are patrolling in the sweltering heat.
The SAPS says increasing visibility at malls is part of the back-to-basics approach. And that’s a good thing.
It’s a sad sign of the times that law enforcement is necessary at places like shopping malls. Unfortunately, these stringent measures have to be taken to ensure the safety of ordinary South Africans during the holiday season.