A gang of pick-pockets is operating in the Rosebank Mall and students have been warned to be “aware and vigilant”.

On August 19, I was pick-pocketed in the Mr Price store. I only realised my purse was gone when another shopper confronted two women as they walked away. Her wallet and Blackberry handset had been taken from her bag while she was browsing.

After she confronted them, the women dropped her belongings and denied stealing them. They were searched by staff members, but no stolen items were found on them.

While waiting for the police to arrive, they explained to me how the syndicate worked.

“We normally walk in as a group and disperse inside the store,” said one of the women, who would not give her name.

They picked people’s pockets and handbags, then passed the stolen goods to another team member, who walked out of the store.

“This is our job. We sustain ourselves by doing it,” she added.

The mall’s security staff responded immediately and called the police.

However, the police officer said it would be pointless to open a case since there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. He said the stolen goods had not been found in the women’s possession – even though witnesses had seen them drop them.

A security officer added: “These people know the law all too well.”

The store manager, who asked to remain anonymous said, “We have been experiencing the problem for a while now. That’s why we warn customers to take care of their belongings.”

The women are known by the Mr Price staff and always return to the store. However, the manager claims: “We can’t go to them and chase them away because they might just turn around and sue us for discriminating against them because we are not sure whether they are there to shop or steal from people.”

The store has a panic button to alert security staff of any threats or suspected criminal activity. However, the manager said they were never sure whether security staff “escorted [them] outside our store or the mall”.

Marketing manager of Rosebank Mall, Gaby Peters commented: “Our security, however, issued a trespassing order banning the suspects from the mall for three months. Their photographs will be kept on file to identify them should they enter our premises again. If they do we will take further action.”

The centre’s CCTV systems only cover the common areas such as walkways outside the stores and the parking lots. Peters said the onus was on the tenants to provide their own cameras because “the mall is responsible legally whereas a leased area is the responsibility of the tenant”.

Mr Price store manager said the pick-pockets operated mostly on Sundays because the flea market was open, bringing an influx of students and tourists carrying cash.


Published in Vuvuzela 21st edition, 24 August 2012