Watch your pockets

A man was beaten by angry shoppers after he allegedly stole a cellphone in the Golden Acre.

Employees of businesses in the Golden Acre say vigilantism, pickpocketing and robbery are a regular occurrence in the bustling shopping centre, and that they have witnessed countless attacks on criminals who are caught and beaten up by shoppers and passers-by.

This emerged after a video, was shot, which shows a man, who had allegedly robbed someone of their cellphone, lying out cold on the floor outside Bata in the Golden Acre. The Golden Acre security guards and a group of people had apparently caught him and beaten him up outside Hungry Lion until the police intervened.

The video also shows the police standing over the man, while arguing with the crowd.

The incident was filmed by a reporter who works for Cape Community Newspapers, which publishes the CapeTowner.

Witnesses and employees of nearby stores, who did not want to be named, told the CapeTowner about the incident, and the struggles that Golden Acre shoppers face.

In this specific incident, a woman told the CapeTowner that the guards had caught the cellphone thief and then the “securities gave him a hiding”. Police intervened thereafter.

“It always happens. When someone is caught, the customers all hit them and the securities too. Robbery here is really a problem. It happens all the time. They will take your things out your pocket, or try to fish your phone from your pocket if they see you have earphones.”

Another store employee said she had seen the security guards kicking the alleged robber inside Hungry Lion, before the fight moved outside the eatery.

It was unclear whether the cellphone was recovered, because, according to police, no case of theft or robbery had been opened.

Growthpoint Properties, which manages the Golden Acre, declined to comment on the conduct of their security guards, despite being given a detailed description of the video and being told about the concerns of staff who work in the centre. “We have not seen the video footage you refer to, and thus are unable to comment on it,” said Growthpoint’s Renee English.

She said, however, that they were aware of a pickpocketing problem inside the Golden Acre, and have put prevention measures in place.

“The safety of shoppers and their possessions continues to be a priority for us.

She did not answer questions posed by the CapeTowner about the conduct of the security guards, or the measures put in place by management to prevent violence by the guards.

In response, she only said: “We would like to stress that we do not condone vigilantism nor do we tolerate undue rough conduct from our security guards.”

While Ms English conceded that there was a pickpocketing and theft problem in the Golden Acre, the Cape Town Central police seem to have no record of any criminal incidents inside the shopping centre.

Police spokesman, Captain Ezra October, said police could not comment on incidents inside the shopping mall as it was a private property with mall security and surveillance cameras.

He added, however, that “we are not saying there is no concern with petty theft and robbery”.

Captain October said pickpocketing usually happens when people are rushing to work or to the shops, and they don’t even realise that their items were stolen until they reach their destination.

“It is usually a cellphone that is stolen, so people report it only if they need to do so for insurance purposes.”

“Our area of concern is the space outside of Game.

“Once people enter the mall, they are the security’s responsibility.”

He said the police have a good working relationship with the management of Gold-en Acre, and have regular crime meetings.

“However, if there are any reported cases of assault by security, a police officer will carry out their duties to protect and serve the community because nobody has the right to assault anyone.

“The police have no record of any vigilante attacks reported in the Cape Town Central Police pre-cinct shopping malls.”