Following the spate of armed robberies at shopping centres in the Western Cape and Gauteng over the past few months, and with the Christmas holiday season just around the corner, short-term insurer Santam provided some tips on how to stay safe when out shopping.

Ms Shehnaz Somers, Santam’s head of commercial lines underwriting, said while stores selling cellular phones, jewellery and high-value electronic goods seem to be the current target, robbers have also demanded that shoppers hand over handbags, jewellery or car keys.

“There have been reports that get-away cars are in high demand following a store robbery, so shoppers are urged to be extra vigilant when leaving parking areas and to always be on the lookout for any suspicious activity,” she said.

Ms Somers recommended the following:

  •  Avoid being alone in high-target stores around opening and closing times.
  •  Be observant at all times, be aware of shoppers around you and of anyone following you in the parking area.
  •  Report any suspicious behaviour discreetly to the shopping centre management, the information desk or security staff.
  •  Should robbers demand your vehicle or a personal item, hand it over immediately; your life and those of your family members are worth more than valuables.
  •  Don’t confront anyone yourself, robbers are likely to be armed.

“As difficult as it may be, stay calm, don’t make eye contact, don’t act aggressively, and follow their instructions at all times,” she added.

It is also a good idea to decide how and where you and your friends or family will reunite in the event of a robbery, or if you are in a different part of the shopping centre.

Bear in mind that you may be without your cellular phone.

Ms Somers said management teams at most shopping centres are working with the SAPS and Business Against Crime (BAC) to reassess security measures to ensure shoppers’ safety.

Santam is, through the South African Insurance Association (SAIA), working with the BAC, mall management and retailers to address the issue from an insurance perspective.

“Retailers are urged to ensure that their businesses are protected with adequate insurance, including public liability insurance. We have noted that under-insurance is still common among South African small businesses, and unforeseen setbacks, especially over the festive season, could cost business owners dearly,” she said.

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