The Athlone Community Police Forum (CPF) believes robberies at Vangate Mall have increased due to a lack of security guards at the shopping centre’s entry points.
The mall has been robbed three times since September.
In the latest incident, MTN was robbed on Monday May 15.
Sergeant Zita Norman, Athlone police station spokeswoman, said robbers made off with R10 000 and 300 cellphones.
The robbery occurred 15 minutes after the store had closed at 7pm.
According to police, two armed men forced their way into the store when one of the employees opened the door on the way to use the toilet.
Once in the store, one man pointed a gun at the employees and demanded they go to the back room. One employee noticed another two gunmen entering the store. They demanded he and the other staff put all the cellphones into bags and open the safe.
No shots were fired and no injuries were sustained during the robbery.
According to the mall’s CCTV footage, the robbers arrived in a red Toyota Yaris and white Ford Focus and entered the mall through entrance 1.
Vangate Mall centre management, said MTN was doing an internal audit to establish what was taken.
The staff are currently receiving counselling from MTN head office.
Sergeant Norman said cellphone and jewellery stores had become targets due to the demand for stolen goods, which were resold at a cheaper price.
Athlone CPF chairperson Aziza Kannemeyer said the mall needed to increase the number of security guards at all entry points.
She said the mall, which was surrounded by Heideveld, Bonteheuwel, Parktown and Langa, had become a target for robbers.
“The mall is generating enough money so it is possible to have proper CCTV and trained security. The mall isn’t even that big compared to all the other malls in the Western Cape. The security guards need to be trained as to what to look out for,” she said.
Ms Kannemeyer was worried that innocent shoppers and employees would be hurt during the robberies.She said that what was sickening was that there was a demand for stolen goods because people could buy them at a cheaper price than in the stores. “The more people keep buying (stolen goods) the more robberies will occur,” she said.
Ms Kannemeyer said the solution was that the law needed to make sure that people who were caught with stolen property were criminally prosecuted.
She said it was unfair that people did not feel safe while shopping at Vangate Mall.
“The safety protocol of the mall needs a drastic review,” she said.
When Athlone News asked what measures had been put in place to prevent robberies, the mall’s management said: “We would like to assure all our customers that safety and security is our top priority and we are using all measures to maintain a safe shopping environment.”
Sergeant Norman said police patrolled the area daily and did internal patrolling once a week.
“The mall needs more internal security which is what the mall management needs to provide,” she said.
In September last year Spur was robbed by two armed men. As the employees informed the men that they were about to close, one of them produced a gun and instructed the manager to open the safe. When the manager said he was unable to, the men instructed the cashier to open the safe and took an undisclosed amount of money before fleeing the scene.
In November, Clicks was robbed by four men who entered the store with guns. Two of the men went to the back office and another two jumped over the front counter and ordered the two cashiers to empty money from the registers into black bags.
The men in the back room ordered the manager to open the safe and removed R60 worth of coins. The manager told them that she did not have access to the drop safe where the notes were kept. They then ushered the employees into the back room and fled.
In October, a man was robbed of R27 000 after he had withdrawn the cash at Vangate Mall and made his way to Athlone High School. As he entered the school grounds, he was approached by five armed men who also took the keys to his bakkie and two cellphones to the value of R2 000.