South Africa Fights Back Against Cash Heists

Published 4 years ago
Crime scene blurred law enforcement and forensic background

The dramatic surge of violent Cash-In-Transit robberies in South Africa has the cash services industry fighting back.

If you’re moving money, it could all end in tears, gunfire and a sickening explosion. This is the misery of the road in the Cash-In-Transit (CIT) business in South Africa.

With over 180 heists in the first seven months of this year alone, injuring at least 62 guards and killing seven, private business is trying to find ways to make money out of thwarting these thieves.

“The challenge is that this is such a sophisticated level of crime that everyone in our industry is really looking at it and saying this is really difficult to combat. This is quite tough,” says Roy Alves, the Sales Director of Axis Communications.

The Swedish company has been manufacturing security cameras in South Africa for the last two decades. It’s been approached to assist with its technology in combating CITs.

“What we’re seeing is that this is an organized crime. This is not a random hit on a vehicle carrying cash. This is syndicated crime that has intelligence. They’re either listening on radio frequencies, or listening on telephone conversations, or having information on the roots of these vehicles,” says Alves.

The leading providers of security equipment to the CIT and banking industry, AllCash Technologies, hosted a high-level panel discussion recently in Midrand, Johannesburg, which looked at ways to impede these heists.

Interpol’s #TurnBackCrime campaign Ambassador, Andy Mashaile, was one of the panelists.

“In 2017, 136 billion rands went through the veins of the financial system, and out of 10 heists, 465 million [rands] was stolen. Only 33 million [rands] of that was recovered,” said Mashaile.

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The other two panelists were Guateng province’s MEC of Community Safety, Sizakele Malobane, and retired police crime statistics expert and independent analyst, Dr Chris de Kock.

Malobane pulled no punches in giving the perpetrators of CIT heists a stern warning.

“We want to send a message to criminals that we are aware of your arrogance and we’ll deal with your arrogance decisively.There are many ways to deal with it. We can actually respond either by protecting the money… also, we can return fire with fire,” said Malobane.

The use of high-caliber firearms in CIT heists has raised many eyebrows.
De Kock came armed with statistics that posed crucial questions to the panel. He said 11% of these robberies involve high-caliber firearms.

“These firearms should not be in the hands of the public at all. We’re talking of R4’s (rifle), R5’s (rifle), AK’s (AK-47) and whatever,” said De Kock.

In response, Malobane dispelled some of the suspicions around police involvement.

“It’s not only from the police that these arms are coming from. Most of them, honestly speaking, are actually coming from other countries. These are the kind of weapons that are not used or legal in South Africa, that get used in the process of committing that particular crime,” said Malobane.

Just outside the discussion, AllCash Technologies demonstrated ways to help combat the scourge of CIT heists.

It showed the use of its vehicle vault protection device, called the protection dispensing unit.

The unit is for the protection of assets in the vault area of the vehicle. Once activated, it releases a solid block of polyurethane foam, which envelopes the money, and then hardens into a solid block within two minutes.

In the case of an attempt to blow up the cash van, the explosion hardens the foam, which absorbs the blast.

Also in display here was the Cash Defender MK3, designed to allow the safe movement of bank notes outside of a cash van.

Once activated, it releases smoke and stains the banknotes, rendering them useless.
Back at the panel discussion, the mining industry, and the use of its explosives in these heists, also came under scrutiny.

“Before we even investigated some of the mining companies, some of them approached us and indicated that ‘we suspect that our explosives are the ones that are being used for CIT’, but not only for CIT, they’re also used for the illegal mining by zama-zamas [hustlers]. So there is an investigation there and I hope that very soon we’ll actually be cracking that particular case,” said Malobane.

For the Interpol ambassador, it was the dark web that was of concern.

Mashaile said 90% of the internet’s usage lies within the dark web, where criminals meet.

“Me and you, and your viewers only use about 10 percent of the internet. The deep web, or dark web, is where a lot of crime is committed. That’s where you can access the hitman industry. That’s where your masterminds in heists meet and communicate freely on that space of the deep web and the dark web,” said Mashaile.

To the crime expert and retired police statistician, the real concern lies within the patterns picked up from his experience.

De Kock says before he left the police in 2013, one of the patterns he noticed was that once one crime is seemingly combatted, criminals move on to the next.

“When we started to manage these figures down from 394 (heists per year) to 182 (heists); 145 (heists) when I left, when it was managed down, it immediately jumped from CITs to ATM bombings. So we must be very careful…the moment you do something, in sociology, we say you have unforeseen consequences,” said De Kock.

Police, government, security companies and the South African community as a whole have had enough of CIT heists.
For now, the weapons against them are vigilance smoke and foam.