Retailers in Ladysmith in northern KwaZulu-Natal say they are fighting a losing battle against criminals.
In recent weeks criminals have been targeting retail stores in the area.
Last week, a 36-year-old security guard was gunned down during an armed robbery at a tyre dealership in the town.
The robbers earlier visited the retailer pretending to be customers. They then struck after scouting the area.
The robbers armed with handguns arrived at the premises on foot. They fled with cheques, a laptop, cash and the security guard's firearm after shooting him.
Frustrated store owners said they were at a loss about what to do. They said meetings to resolve the issue had failed to come up with lasting solutions.
Debby Bazzer, manager of Murchison Mall, said many retailers were affected by crime in the small town.
"Retailers complain about theft regularly. Apart from armed robberies, shoplifting is also common.
"I manage a number of malls from Ladysmith, Dundee, Newcastle to Vryheid and members of the public complain about the same thing - crime.
"It's really escalating and people do not feel safe in malls anymore."
Local businessman Mike Wood said crime was a normal phenomenon during this time of the year. He said small towns had become a soft target for gangs who steered clear of the big cities.
"But on the industrial side the crime element has decreased because we do not keep money in our business premises and our payrolls are now electronic.
"Police are successful in dealing with the gangs that come from outside towns but not those from within," said Wood.