As we approach the busy retail festive season, the risk of mall robberies unfortunately increases. Knowing what to do in the event of a mall robbery could save your life.
Last weekend alone Fidelity Services Group reported five incidents in the Johannesburg area. In the first incident at a retail store in Hillbrow, six suspects held up the officer at the entrance as well as the second officer and the staff inside the store. The suspects stole cash and fled the scene.
In a separate incident, again in a retail store on 14th Avenue, four armed suspects held up the staff and demanded they hand over cellphones and cash from the cash register. On 11 October at approximately 10:30, Fidelity teams were alerted to an attempted armed robbery at a jewellery shop in Centurion Mall. Fidelity teams, the SAPS and medical emergency personnel all responded to the alert, but unfortunately, when everyone arrived the suspects had already fled the area.
On further investigation the teams found one of the female employees who had fallen and injured herself while trying to stop the suspects from fleeing the scene and another male bystander had been fatally wounded in the crossfire when the suspects fled. The medical teams attended to the injured staff member but were unable to resuscitate the bystander.
Wahl Bartmann, CEO for Fidelity Services Group, says, “The golden rule if you ever are caught in the middle of a heist is to stay calm.”
Customers always need to remain vigilant and should always be on the lookout for any suspicious activities and be aware of the people around them. Fidelity Services Group provides the following useful advice:
If you are in the store that is being robbed
• Co-operate with the criminals for your own safety. Listen to their instructions closely and follow their instructions.
• Try and keep as calm as possible. Everyone reacts in a different way but try and breathe deeply until help arrives.
• Do not use your cellphone whilst the robbery is in process, this could agitate the assailants.
• Immediately try and find a sheltered spot and keep low on the ground.
• Take note of the assailants to pass information on to the authorities: what they were wearing, any distinctive clothes, markings, jewellery etc.; try and remember what they look like i.e. height, weight, etc.
• Ensure your children are always kept close to you. Do not let children wander off while you are shopping.
• Do not shop with large amounts of cash or valuables.
If you are not in the store being robbed
• Speak with the store personnel to firstly close the roller shutter doors. This is also standard operating procedures in many malls and move to the back of the store, out of sight.
• Try and find a store closest to you and secure yourself as described above.
• Do not try and exit via the standard entry and exit points as these are the same points the criminals will be using. Many malls now have standard operating procedures to lock down the mall.
Bartmann says crime is becoming more sophisticated, with inside information playing an increasingly prominent role. “Whether you were in the store being robbed, or just witnessed the incident in the centre, you should seek counselling, regardless of how you might feel. It often takes some time to experience and deal with the post-traumatic stress following such robberies,” concludes Bartmann.
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