South Africa 21.10.2014 07:17 pm

SADC cops to talk about mall tech robberies

FILE PICTURE: Police arrested six suspects following a business robbery at Centurion Mall on Friday, 17 October 2014. Pic: eBlockwatch

FILE PICTURE: Police arrested six suspects following a business robbery at Centurion Mall on Friday, 17 October 2014. Pic: eBlockwatch

Tracing cellphones stolen during a spate of mall robberies across South Africa will be discussed at talks between Southern African Development Community (SADC) police chiefs, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega said on Tuesday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with Parliament’s portfolio committee on police, Phiyega said tracing the markets where the stolen cellphones were heading was crucial to cracking down on syndicates responsible for the robberies.

“There are mega links. Some of the people that were arrested here [in the Western Cape] we were able to link them to other cases in Gauteng, so there’s a lot of work that’s being done between the provinces,” Phiyega said.

“I’m fortunate to be meeting with the police chiefs of the SADC region on Thursday so it will be one of the issues we looking into in terms of cross-border collaboration to look at where are these stolen products being taken to.”

Gauteng and the Western Cape have been hardest hit by a succession of armed robberies taking place at malls over the last few months.

In almost all the cases, the robbers’ loot has consisted of electronic devices, especially cellphones.

There have been several breakthroughs in Gauteng over the past few weeks.

Most recently, on Friday last week, seven people were arrested in connection with two separate incidents whereby a Telkom store at Irene Mall was held up at gunpoint, and a shoot-out took place between robbers and police at Centurion Mall.

Gauteng police commissioner Lesetja Mothiba said the majority of suspects arrested were foreigners.

“I think at some stage the national commissioner will make some announcements because we are worried that in almost all of these arrests there were foreigners involved, especially Zimbabweans and Nigerians,” Mothiba said.

“We are very worried that these cellphones — almost 10 percent — are meant for the local market and about 90 percent are being exported to most of the countries in Africa.”

In August, crime intelligence officers, linked to the national task team set up to probe the robberies, arrested several suspects who were trying to enter Lesotho with the stolen goods.

 

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