Two hardware stores in Grassy Park’s 5th Avenue are now serving customers from behind bars and a locked gate after armed robbers held them up within days of each other.
Fed-up with being soft targets, the business owners are beefing up security to protect themselves, their staff and their livelihoods.
Siraj Roomaney, a co-owner of Roomaney’s Hardware said two men had come into the shop shortly after opening at 9am, on Wednesday September 20.
“The one who approached me looked like a painter, in his blue and yellow reflector overalls, and he came to ask me about paint.”
Then two more men came in and a fifth man guarded the door. “They pulled out handguns and one of them put a gun to my head. They asked where the money was and I pointed it out. They took my cellphone that was in the charger.”
Mr Roomaney said the men wore hoodies with their faces uncovered and were “very aggressive and looked like they knew what they were doing”.
At first he cooperated, but when a robber told him to move to the backyard he fought back, throwing a shelf at a robber and shouting.
The robbers ran out of the shop and piled into a getaway car driven by a sixth man. They took some cash and Mr Roomaney’s cellphone.
“Someone stopped a police van driving in our road, and told them about the robbery.”
Mr Roomaney’s brother, Mansoor, was just arriving at the shop as the car sped off.
“I actually followed them down 5th Avenue for about 100 metres, but as I was driving I realised these men could be armed and dangerous. So, I turned back,” said Mansoor.
Although Mr Roomaney said it had been a traumatic experience for all of them.The family started the business in 1957.
“I must also commend my neighbours and the community at the mosque who supported our family. Their support helps us deal with the trauma,” said Mr Roomaney
“We are now operating during the week behind a gated door, to protect us. We don’t really want to go back to the time when we had to serve our customers through gates, years ago, but we are forced to do so.”
The elderly Logday couple who own the Progress Hardware Store, were robbed on Monday September 25. They are still badly shaken and do not want their full names published.
Ms Logday said a robber had hit on her back with a gun during the attack while Mr Logday had been hurt on his arm.
The couple are now installing burglar bars in the foyer.
“Customers can only come to that point when they want to purchase hardware. Our business has been open for 46 years and this is the second time they robbed us. The first attack was a few months ago. When they came again last week, we decided to put up the bars,” said Mr Logday.
Grassy Park Community Police Forum (CPF) spokesman Philip Bam said there had been a spike in crime, and the CPF had called for monthly meetings with the Grassy Park police to discuss crime prevention.
“We are working with the provincial police who started a three-day workshop, two weeks’ ago, to discuss the challenges and to set up intervention plans,” he said. Local neighbourhood watches were now also patrolling during the day.
“The problem is that we need community participation. We plead to them to be more alert and not to forget to lock their safety gates etc.”
He said the police should do more foot patrols and random searches.
Grassy Park Police spokeswoman Constable Carol Strauss could not say whether there was a link between the two armed robberies, but police were investigating, she said.