Study shows armed robbers target foreign shops

One of the robbers points his weapon at an employee.

The brazen armed robbery of a convenience store in Rondebosch East has highlighted that foreign-owned or managed shops are highly susceptible to attacks of this nature.

Following the armed robbery of Hassen’s Superette on Saturday June 18, Sniper Security, a research partner to UCT’s Criminology department, has released the results of a study which reflect common trends in the robbery of shops and convenience stores in Cape Town and the province.

The company has studied hundreds of hours of CCTV footage to establish these trends.

The robbery of Hassen’s Superette began at 7.39, and according to Sniper Security’s Ridwaan Mathews, took only three minutes to complete.

“Within 16 seconds of entering the premises the three robbers had ambushed the store owner and staff. Five seconds later, the owner was tied up with cable ties, making it impossible for him to activate the panic button. This was clearly evident on the CCTV footage,” Mr Mathews said.

“The robbers immediately started ransacking the till and looted the cigarette counter only. They were not interested in anything else. Cigarettes have become the new trade currency in the underworld. The complete robbery took approximately three minutes with accurate precision.”

Mr Mathews said it was only after the suspects had left that the shop owner attempted to activate the remote panic button.

“The first five attempts to activate the panic button did not work as the shop owner’s hands were tied. He then finally managed to trigger the action. Sniper Security received the panic activation and immediately dispatched an armed response vehicle to the shop within five minutes.”

Mr Mathews said it was apparent that the landscape of shop ownership in the Western Cape had evolved into foreign ownership, but this had a “significant attraction” to criminal elements.

“Our research indicates there are a number of factors involved. It is almost guaranteed that foreign store owners keep cash on the premises, as they generally transact in cash. Generally these stores are overcrowded and access control and monitoring systems are non-existent.” he said.

“Local stores also do not have cash drop safes. Furthermore, they have a small number of employees which makes it difficult to stop or deter criminals. Finally, extended hours of trading make many convenience stores more attractive to the criminal elements, as there are fewer customers and witnesses present.”

A further conclusion drawn from the research was that in most store robberies, staff were either preoccupied with their cellphones or reading magazines or newspapers when the suspects struck.

He said store owners had a “duty” to protect employees and customers.

“Shops owners need to implement systems and processes to minimise the risk of an attack. There needs to be regular training for employees on reading the body language of patrons, and training for staff on how to react in a robbery situation,” he said.

“Store owners need to implement access control measures, visual security measures and high-end CCTV solutions, while also staging regular security store audits to identify the risks. All staff should also be provided with remote panic buttons.”