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Welkom Community Policing Forum – tips on how to react to an armed robbery.

Prevention is better than cure and this goes hand-in-hand with being proactive, says WO Coetzee from the elkom SAPS, he explained that armed robberies, commonly known as a hold-up involves theft accompanied by violence or threat, or the use of a weapon.

Coetzee said in any situation, prevention is better than cure and this goes hand-in-hand with being proactive.

“Before committing his crime, the thief will visit your establishment. Keep your establishment in order and ask your employees to store their personal effects in a safe location,” he advised.

More tips on prevention include:

  1. Watch your customers.
  2. Be wary of suspicious individuals. Develop your sense of observation to spot any suspicious behaviour. Contact the police if aggressive or threatening individuals refuse to leave your premises upon your request.
  3. Keep emergency telephone numbers close at hand.
  4. Install an emergency call button (panic button). Ensure that all your employees know how to use it.
  5. Have more than one employee on duty in the evening, if possible. If an employee must work alone at night, ensure their safety by means of a glass enclosure or a door which they can control, unlocking only when a customer appears.

Tips on what to do during an armed robbery:

  1. Remain calm and obey the robber’s orders. Do only what they demand.
  2. Raise your hands and don’t move. If you must move, tell them what you are going to do. Ensure they can always see your hands.
  3. Don’t have a discussion with them. Don’t try to change their mind. Speak only if spoken to. Answer in a confident voice and with short sentences.
  4. Keep them informed. Ensure there are no surprises.
  5. Give them what they demand. Be honest about the amount of money which you can give them.

“During a robbery, it is easier to try and gather information on the suspect by trying to remember things that will help the police follow up and catching the robber,” Coetzee said.

Observe them attentively and attempt to remember the following characteristics:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Height
  • Weight
  • Colour of eyes and hair
  • Clothing
  • Weapon (size, type, etc.)
  • Other distinctive signs (scars, tattoos, accent) or specific odours (alcohol, tobacco).

He said attempting to memorise what he touches will assist the police in lifting fingerprints.

He urged residents not to give chase when the suspects take off. “Note the direction of their get away and a description of their vehicle, if applicable (licence plate number, make and colour of vehicle). Next, activate the alarm system and call the police,” Coetzee added.

Once a robbery has taken place, steps can also be taken to ensure the premises is secured:

  1. Lock the entry door and other access points.
  2. Call the police immediately, even if the robber threatened you.
  3. Help the victims.
  4. Preserve evidence.
  5. Ask witnesses to remain on the premises.
  6. Take notes.
  7. Follow the instructions of the police officers.
  8. Do not divulge information about the theft to anyone but the police.
  9. Don’t be afraid to testify.

W/O Andries Coezee – Welkom Community Policing Forum

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