Criminals depend on you being distracted. It is when you aren’t paying attention that you become an easy target for would-be thieves. Our security experts provide tips to ensure your safety at shopping malls and on the way home.
Armed response service provider Fidelity ADT has issued a call on the public to use caution and vigilance when traveling to and from busy shopping centres, following a number of incidents in recent days.
This week saw two incidents at malls, when armed suspects stormed the Nicol Way Shopping Centre in Bryanston as well as a jewellery store at Cape Town’s Somerset Mall.
Crime is on the increase
“Looking at what has been reported in the media, it seems there has also been a definite increase in the number of hijackings in the Gauteng area. The majority of incidents are taking place during the day and much of it appears to be opportunistic,” says Charnel Hattingh, National Marketing and Communications Manager at Fidelity ADT.
Vehicle tracking company Tracker was also quoted by media this week, warning of an increase in car hijackings while the latest crime statistics release by the SAPS at the end of July showed that cases of carjacking have seen the biggest increase year-on-year. Police reported 18,162 cases over the reporting period.
To ensure your safety at shopping malls and on the way home, always trust your instincts. That gut feeling is seldom wrong and should be acted on. Call for help.
Stay alert when heading home
“The majority of carjacking cases we see are where shoppers are followed home from the malls and hijacked in their driveways. Criminals are aware shoppers have a car full of newly-purchased items and are generally easy, distracted targets. Awareness is your most effective defence. Keep an eye out for any suspicious vehicles that may be following you and if in doubt, drive to your nearest police station or security provider guard house,” says Hattingh.
Remember the general hijacking safety tips such as waiting in the road for the gate to open before driving in, she adds, and make sure the gate is closed properly behind your vehicle before getting out.
When it comes to staying safe in malls, Hattingh encourages shoppers to carry as little as possible in handbags or pockets and rather leave unnecessary bank or store cards and large amounts of cash at home. Drawing money at an ATM also needs to be done with care.
Top tips from the experts to ensure your safety at shopping malls and on the way home:
- If you need to draw money at an ATM, use a machine in a busy, public area
- Be aware of anyone standing nearby and never accept help from strangers when entering your PIN
- Put your money in your purse or wallet before you walk away from the ATM
- If you think someone has followed you from the machine, walk into the nearest shop or up to a mall security guard.
How to stay safe outside the mall:
- Avoid shopping late at night, keeping in mind the current curfew regulations
- Another risk is remote jamming. Always park your car in a well-lit, properly secured parking area, ideally with security personnel on duty
- When you leave your car, make sure the doors are properly locked. Never just assume that your remote had in fact locked your doors. The extra few seconds it takes to make sure the car is properly locked and secured are worth it.
“Criminals depend on their targets being distracted. It is when people aren’t paying attention when they become easy targets for would-be thieves. The best option is therefore to be on the lookout for anyone following you or someone loitering at your car in the parking area. Trust your instincts and call for help if you feel unsafe or unsure,” says Hattingh.