Fourth armed robbery hits centre

The Paddocks Shopping Centre has been robbed once again.

An armed robbery at Milnerton’s Paddocks Shopping Centre on Sunday is the fourth there in less than a year.

Four men, two armed, held customers and staff at gunpoint at the Vodacom Cellucity store at about noon on Sunday.

According to Milnerton police spokeswoman Captain Nopaya Madyibi, the men pointed guns at the staff and demanded cellphones.

“The suspects tried to open the cabinet where cellphones are kept, but the cabinet could not open immediately.

“They then demanded the customers’ cellphones and left the shop with three cellphones to the value of R31 000. Nobody was hurt, and there was no arrest made. The case is under investigation.”

It is the third time this Cellucity in Paddocks has been hit since March last year, when four armed men escaped in a grey BMW after robbing the store.

Then, in June, four men robbed customers at the same mall’s MTN store.

The robbers were spooked by an alarm after trying to break into the shop’s safe (“Robbers target mall,” Tabletalk, June 12).

A month later, six men, three with guns, took two cellphones and seven replica phones at the Cellucity.

At the time, centre management spokeswoman Ingrid Nel said she could not speak about the security upgrades as the case was under investigation (“Robbers pounce on centre,” Tabletalk, July 10). The mall did, however, respond to the mounting pressure on social media, with a post on Facebook saying there were “many visible changes taking place at Paddocks shortly, including physical access control”.

Things quietened down at Paddocks, but Canal Walk was the next target. In September, five men with guns robbed a computer shop there. Police caught two robbery suspects in Parow after a high-speed chase. A 9mm gun and the stolen iPads and cellphones were recovered (“Thieves pounce on computer store in Canal Walk,” Tabletalk, September 25).

Just over a week later, three armed men robbed the Cellucity in Canal Walk, taking 12 demo cellphones (“Canal Walk’s Cellucity robbed,” Tabletalk, October 9).

Following the latest robbery, some Milnerton residents are threatening to stay clear of Paddocks until they see an improvement in the mall’s security.

Shaun Bester told Tabletalk he wanted to see the security upgrades the mall had spoken about after the previous robbery because they did not seem to have helped much.

“We need boom gates at each entrance of the mall. There should be spikes set up as well so that when there is an incident like this, the criminals can be slowed down and caught by our armed-response and police. Otherwise, all of this will just keep happening,” he said.

Jackie Winnick said she had vowed never to go to Paddocks again after the spate of robberies last year, but she had found herself shopping there again after things had calmed down.

“I live in Royal Ascot, so that is the closest mall to me. It’s very convenient, but I can’t put mine and my family’s lives and risk by going there. I am done with that place,” she said.

Ward 4 councillor Wandisile Ngeyi said the mall should consider hiring more security and possibly arming them.

“I know having armed security might become dangerous in the event of a shootout, but I do believe that armed security personnel in the shopping centre will act as a deterrent to criminals. They will think twice about taking chances. Right now, the criminals are not scared because they know the mall security can’t stop them,” he said.

Mr Ngeyi agreed that boom gates and spikes could help. Cellucity owner Sean Joffe said the four robbers, two of them armed, had arrived separately. One of the robbers, posing as a customer, had kept watch in the store and used a WhatsApp group to communicate with his accomplices.

“He has already been identified. The robbers rounded up the two mall security guards outside Vida e Caffè and forced them into the Cellucity store. Customers and staff were pushed into the Cellucity back office. Nobody was hurt, but it is a very traumatic experience for the customers and salespeople. Counselling was offered,” he said.

The robbers had been unable to take any stock because of the shop’s security measures, he said, although he wouldn’t divulge what those measures were, saying, “Criminals evolve, so we need to evolve faster”.

Paddocks spokeswoman Ingrid Nel said they were distressed by the robbery but thankful no one had been hurt.

“The matter is still under investigation so we do not wish to comment until such time as we have more concrete information. We had instituted additional security measures before this happened and are in the process of investigating further options as we speak. We are very concerned that patrons and staff have been affected by the incident,” she said.

Ms Nel said anyone who felt they needed a session with a trauma counsellor could contact their offices at 021 424 1210 or retail@daleglen.co.za.

Captain Madyibi said police had made five arrests in connection with last year’s robberies at Canal Walk.

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