Almost one business a day has been robbed in East London over the last 14 days.
Yesterday it was the turn of a second Pep store to be raided by armed gunmen.
On Monday a national police task team arrived in the city to take on the thugs. Social media lit up yesterday with fears that the same gang was at work, but police would not confirm it.
Instead police announced that a manhunt had been launched and there were “leads” to follow.
Yesterday the four heavily armed thugs hit the Pep store in Albert Street in the EL city centre at 8.45am, said EL police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala. They made off with an undisclosed amount of money from the tills and from the store’s office, she added.
A team of crime intelligence and crime prevention investigators were on their trail.
Red Alert guard division manager Brett Harvey called it the the 11th business robbery in EL in the past two weeks.
Harvey believes some of the shops were hit by the same gang. “These guys could be working together in some of the robberies. They are targeting shops selling electronics.”
Mqala declined to reveal the number of robberies saying it would form part of the crime statistics released once a year.
Mqala said the thugs stormed the store and demanded money and cellphones from staff. “Then they took money. Store cellphones were taken and then they ran away without firing any shots. All necessary people were summoned to the crime scene. Police are following up on information.”
The Dispatch’s efforts to get a comment from Pep drew a blank yesterday. The Albert street store’s area manager, who declined to give his name, and the store’s manager, only known as Cynthia, referred the Dispatch to the regional offices in Berea. The Dispatch visited the premises but was told there to “call Cape Town”.
The robbery comes 14 days after the Pep store in Cambridge was robbed by three men of cellphones and cash. A customer, pistol-whipped in the face, was rushed to hospital.
The blitz of robberies have sparked fears with online sites jammed with comments about a gang targeting businesses in the city, but Mqala would not comment. The Dispatch sent questions to the provincial police headquarters about the alleged syndicate but no response came back. On Saturday, the Caltex garage in Amalinda Main Road was robbed of R12 000 by a lone gunman whom manager Erhardt Richter said had a BB pellet gun
The incident happened a day after two of East London’s busiest malls, Hemingways and Vincent Park, were robbed on Friday by four-member gangs.
Also on Friday, Andy’s corner store in Southernwood was robbed by two gunmen.