Mall cops. Wel­come to SA

CityPress - - Voices -

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.

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