Criminals on both sides of the counter are smart and fast. Here are some tips
More needs to be done to keep tenants and shoppers safe at shopping centres, says Lemok Group founder and chief executive Lebogang Mokubela.
Lebogang says it is important for centres to partner with organisations that specialise in preventing crime in the retail industry.
“Consider new technologies and keep up to date with emerging and new security technology that can be applied to improve security at shopping centres. Open up communication channels with all staff in the shopping centre,” he says.
A case study conducted by Natasha Lutchminarain titled “Safety as a priority at shopping centres in Gauteng: An assessment of existing security measures,” delves deeper into shopping centre safety.
According to Lutchminarain’s research, shopping centres and the modern retailing world have, over the past decade or so, changed dramatically. With this change, crime has also adapted.
Criminals on both sides of the counter are working harder and smarter. “Computer-based systems have provided for better accounting, auditing and discrepancy reporting results, but the face of crime has changed along with the technological improvements.
“Due to the practice of displaying goods openly to attract consumers, shopping centres and retail stores suffer from a high incidence of theft and other crimes, both violent or non-violent, not only from customers, but also from the retail staff. The crime rate at shopping centres increases further just by the mere fact that the site attracts the sort of groups most likely to commit crimes.”
But what can be done?
Mokubela says each centre is unique in terms of design, location, offerings and market. “In order to productively enhance safety for shoppers and tenants, one needs to ‘think like a criminal’.”
He offers some tips for shopping centre managers to consider:
Share information and create partnerships
Partnerships should be established and maintained among all who have a vested interest in the safety and security of the shopping centre industry.
Partnerships can be created with the police, shopping centre management, retail outlet managers, customers and communities, businesses, research institutions and organisations that assist the retail industry such as the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and Business Against CrimeSouth Africa.
Mall managers need to develop and maintain emergency plans that inform tenants and staff what to do in times of crisis. Tenants themselves need to develop their own individual emergency plans so that staff know what to do.
These plans need to be appropriately and noticeably displayed for further and future references by the specific staff or groups. When considering a procedure for an incident such as an armed robbery one must take into account the realities of an armed robbery.
Education and awareness programmes
These are imperative. All parties, from top management to the customer, in the retail experience at shopping centres need to be educated and made aware of the “good, the bad and the ugly”. These programmes can cover a range of topics such as security measures employed to reduce the chances of being a target of an armed robbery, how to behave during an armed robbery, what to do if you have witnessed an armed robbery, and coping mechanisms available to witnesses and victims. This should be a regular process.
Customer safety information
Brochures and leaflets can be handed out to customers. The information they contain should highlight the measures they need to take in order to protect themselves.
These measures include: refraining from carrying large amounts of cash, refraining from wearing expensive jewellery or making it visible while shopping. People should change routes within centres as criminals thrive on patterns.
Shoppers also need to be aware of the measures undertaken by centre management in order to increase their safety.
Trauma counselling and on-site first aid representative
In the event of an incident, trauma counselling and in some cases first aid will need to be administered to those affected.
Anonymous crime reporting facilities
Facilities for the reporting of crime, tip-offs and other criminal activity in centres should be created. Avenues should be made available for the reporting of critical information to both retail employees and customers. Interventions such as an anonymous hotline, secure online facility, text lines and response boxes can be considered.
Adequate training for security guards
Security guards need to be properly trained to handle various situations in the shopping centre. Shopping centre managers need to check the efficiency or training levels of the security contract company and insist on basic security aids such as occurrence books and communications systems and equipment.
The first aspect that needs to be addressed is that of the screening and vetting systems that management is utilising when employing security guards.
Fingerprint security systems can also be used to achieve this. Once employed by a security company, security guards should be trained according to the security needs and changes that arise.