Robberies in shopping malls have reached record highs in South Africa, prompting a response from the business sector in the form of the Collaborative Anti-Crime Platform.

As part of the Consumer Goods Crime Risk Initiative (CGCRI) of the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), the platform will see improved communication between retailers in a joint effort to combat in-mall robberies, the number of incidents of which jumped 32% in 2014. In 2007 the CGCSA mobilised a similar initiative that successfully addressed violent crimes that were taking place at restaurants around the country.

Better retail security is vital not only for the wellbeing of shopping centre occupants, but also for the commercial development industry. Statistics show that having shopping centres in prime locations has a positive impact on other sectors too, such as residential, hospitality and tourism – another incentive for keeping malls crime free.

In his address at the 2014 CGCSA Summit, the head of the CGCRI, Graham Wright, said: “We believe strongly that an effective solution lies in our ability to create a collaborative anti-crime platform that focuses on mitigating the crime risks that currently beleaguer the retail industry. We urge all players in the retail industry to join us in this initiative, where we will share information, develop solutions and strengthen partnerships with all relevant stakeholders and role players.”

Amanda Stops, CEO of the South African Council of Shopping Centres Chief Executive, said: “When it comes to stemming and preventing crime, we are all accountable and we’re all responsible. It’s about working together and creating a relationship that is there through the good and the bad. We all have the responsibility of fostering relations and sharing information to prevent crime and provide a safe shopping environment for consumers.”

The robberies are placing an additional financial burden on property management companies over and above the need to generate inflation-beating returns. The sharing of information as a way to fight crime will help to optimise rental growth through strong tenancy, repeat contracts and continual foot traffic generated by brand loyalty.

Grant Elliot, regional manager of the Western Cape Fountainhead Property Trust, which manages a number of large suburban malls, said: “The comfort, safety and security of our tenants and their customers remain our chief concern. Everyone has an important role to play in crime prevention, and we encourage our retailers and the SAPS to work with mall management and security to take a strong stand against all kinds of crime.”

Elliot said that sophisticated retail security systems were in place at all Fountainhead Property Trust properties, and that management followed a comprehensive set of security procedures, including the regular assessment and upgrade of security measures and equipment. Proactive engagement with the relevant authorities in each surrounding community ensures swift and effective reaction to any security risks, he said.

 

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An exterior perspective of the revamped Paledi Mall, Limpopo, by Twin City Development and financed by Nedbank Corporate Property Finance, Pretoria

 

The role of individual shopping centre managers is paramount to continued industry growth as well as occupant safety. Vanessa Blevins, centre manager at Growthpoint’s La Lucia Mall, said: “Security-wise, internet protocol-based (IP) CCTV monitoring is essential for monitoring incidents, from car accidents in car parks to armed robberies. Shopping mall tenants need to be online and need for the online and data services to be fast and free of encumbrances.”

Technology also alleviated time wastage, increased sales and provided information about shopper behaviour, and landlords who did not keep up with technological advances stood to lose tenant support. Cost-effective retail security installations at new developments and at those centres that are being revamped needed to be considered at the earliest stages of development planning and project financing.

Nedbank Corporate Property Finance Pretoria recently provided a R125-million loan for the revamp of Paledi Mall in Limpopo. Said regional head D’Anvo Jones: “The bank’s retail development funding strategy, both in previously disadvantaged areas in line with Nedbank’s transformational requirements and in metropolitan areas, aim to deliver end products where pleasant shopping experiences, enhanced through the safeguarding and connectivity of occupants, increases consumer spending to the benefit of all stakeholders.”

 

Words: Anna-Marie Smith