Members of a joint crime prevention forum between the SAPS and shopping centres in Polokwane, front from left, Koerie Müller (Centre Manager: Thornhill Shopping Centre), Col. Andre Kotze of the SAPS and organiser of the forum, Cindy Malatji (Moolman Group – City Centre); with back from left; Sumari de Ridder (General Manager: Mall of the North), Marius Pretorius (Manager: Platinum Park), Jurgens Nel (Urban Security: Mall of the North), Eugene van Tonder (Fidelity Security: Thornhill Shopping Centre), Wally Oosthuizen (Afri-Services Security: Savannah Mall) and, Gerhard Bezuidenhout (Operations Manager: Mall of the North).
Making a strong stand against criminals, a new initiative is taking crime prevention to the next level in Polokwane.
Launched by SAPS and shopping centres in Polokwane, the initiative is headed by SAPS Colonel Andre Kotze and is aimed at creating a safer environment for Polokwane residents and visitors alike, both inside and outside the city’s shopping centres.
A special group including Col Kotze, shopping centre managers and mall security managers are staying in constant contact to prevent crime across the city. Group members keep abreast of any crimes that occur on a daily basis and share photographs and descriptions of suspects and suspicious vehicles as they become available. By doing this, shopping centre security officers can be on the lookout for suspicious activity and immediately take the necessary precautions.
The initiative has already experienced significant successes, catching culprits red-handed.
It is also having even greater benefits than initially anticipated.
Sumari de Ridder, General Manager of Mall of the North, comments: “Since its inception, thanks to better understanding and communication, shopping centres have experienced improved response times from SAPS in emergencies. In addition, members from the correct SAPS divisions are now being dispatched for the relevant type of crimes.”
Besides daily communication, the initiative also meets monthly, where it considers any trends in crime figures and brainstorms ways to curb crime.
Having witnessed first-hand the positive impact this initiative is having, de Ridder has encouraged all malls to add their voices to this worthwhile project. “The more shopping centres work together with SAPS and each other, the more effectively we can clamp down on crime.”
This new initiative proved its effectiveness recently when an ATM fraud was reported to security at Mall of the North in Polokwane. Footage was carefully scrutinized and the suspect’s photo was circulated. Security guards, with the help of SAPS, also established he had been driving a car with false number plates, taken from a vehicle stolen in 1996.
Keeping a keen eye out for the suspect in case he returned to the centre, security spotted his car at the mall again two weeks later. They clamped the vehicle and three guards were waiting for him when he returned to his car.
“It turned out the fraudster was also a conman,” reports de Ridder. “On the day he was arrested, he had planned two defraud two elderly people from Bochum out of R10,000 by pretending to be an employee of the pension office. The fraudster’s victims were escorted back to their bank to redeposit their life savings.”
Col Kotze was contacted and the SAPS arrived minutes later. A picture of the suspect was taken and distributed via the group. “After spending a weekend in jail, the suspect got bail. The very next weekend, he tried his hand at ATM fraud again, this time at Florah Park Spar. He was noticed by the security manager and confronted. His nerve quickly faded when he was shown a photo of himself sitting in the control room at Mall of the North,” de Ridder explains.
The suspect pled guilty and received a five-year sentence suspended for five years.
“Without the initiative this criminal would have defrauded more innocent people out of their hard earned money,” says de Ridder. “It is great to know that, by working together, we’ve helped to put a stop to this.”