A trend of armed robberies on Braamfontein stores causes a hike in security.

A string of armed heists in Braamfontein have prompted business owners to tighten up their security. Known for being young and trendy, the neighbourhood has started losing its allure as people no longer feel safe due to the growth in organised crime in the past 12 months.

The robberies target clothing boutiques and streetwear outlets in the area. Thieves, dressed as ordinary people, enter the shops pretending to be customers. Once inside, they order everyone – staff and consumers – into the storeroom where they are tied up. They then clean out the store, taking everything including personal valuables.

Puma Select, one of the first stores to be hit early last year, is now protected by a permanently closed gate and security personnel. The sales manager, Neo Ramoroesi, says heightened safety measures implemented by shop owners have led to a decrease in sales as customers find the shut doors and bouncers intimidating and confusing. “Even though our instore traffic is low due to our barred entrance; it’s a sacrifice we have to make. However, this isn’t a permanent solution because it’s impossible for businesses to stay in an area where sales are suffering.” says Ramoroesi.

Foster Ngobeni, a security guard employed by Platinum Risk Management, the privately-owned company responsible for security in the area, said he had noticed a recent drop in consumer activity since he started patrolling Braamfontein in 2006. “We are doing our best to prevent these robberies from taking place, but it’s very difficult to see what’s happening inside the clothing stores because of the closed security gates.”

Braamfontein is a high priority area for Hillbrow Police Station according to their spokesperson, Sergeant Mduduzi Zondo. “We are aware of the recent problem of armed robberies; our members patrol the streets on a daily basis to watch over the area,” he said. Zondo said the police station had made some arrests and court cases were waiting to be finalised.

Kirsty Marillier, a sales assistant at Parooz Fashions, said store owners had received e-mails from regulars, urban streetwear enthusiasts, who had stopped coming to the area because they felt it was too dangerous. However, she is optimistic about the situation, “We [the Braamfontein staff] are making an effort to work together against these criminals in the hope that Braamfontein will continue to grow and improve.”