Armoured vehicles to be deployed at malls in Gauteng

The police will deploy Nyala armoured vehicles at malls across Gauteng in a fight-back against the upsurge in shopping centre robberies by seemingly highly organised gangs.

But detectives made a breakthrough early yesterday when they arrested five men, in raids in Brixton and in Doornfontein, Johannesburg.

The men, aged between 28 and 44, were found with a 9mm pistol and three semi-automatic rifles.

Gauteng police commissioner Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba said the men were linked to at least two recent mall robberies, including Saturday’s at Black Chain Shopping Centre, in Diepkloof, Soweto.

They are also suspected of being involved in ATM bombings, taxi violence and robberies at business premises.

The police said there had been 11 robberies at malls across Gauteng since the middle of last month targeting cellphone shops and Apple iStores.

The police said they will strengthen their deployments at 12 Gauteng shopping centres, which they refused to name. Armoured vehicles will be part of the deterrent.

Criminologist Rudolph Zinn said the recent spate of shopping centre robberies had been predicted.

“Two or three years ago there was a security summit and what came out is that these guys are going to start hitting malls.”

He said the reason for this was that hijackings, house robberies and ATM bombings were becoming more difficult to pull off.

Armed security guards are hamstrung in engaging robbers in malls because of the danger of hitting bystanders in a shoot-out.

They are targeting cellphones, said Zinn, because phones are small but have a high black market value.

Hennie Lochner, a senior researcher in the department of police practice at Unisa, said blacklisted phones can be reactivated.

The police are to brief mall managers in Gauteng on improving security.