ATM attackers exploiting poor policing
Cape Town - Disarray in the crime intelligence unit and a lack of experienced detectives could be the reason for an increase in automated teller machine (ATM) attacks in the past year, a crime expert said on Friday.
Organised crime syndicates were taking advantage of weaknesses in the policing system, said Institute for Security Studies crime and justice expert Johan Burger.
"One huge weakness is the inability to produce usable crime intelligence about syndicates because of internal problems. There is huge disarray at the moment," he said.
"We also need more investigation into these cases. There is far too little attention on appointing experienced detectives... which leads to successful prosecutions."
Burger said something significant had caused a 61% jump in the past year.
A total of 399 attacks took place in 2010/2011 compared to 247 attacks in 2009/2010, with Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal the biggest targets.
In this time, the crime intelligence unit and other police departments had been re-shuffled.
Cash-in-transit heists, however, were at their lowest levels in four years.
"Cash-in-transit heists became a huge risk. Those criminals involved in syndicates switched attention to a softer target which is less risky and these are ATMs," Burger said.
Visible policing at ATMs had resulted in some success but needed to be strengthened.
The banking industry also needed to change its perspective.
"To them, ATMs should be client-friendly and easily accessible. Criminals see this as a weakness and exploit this. Banks will have to rethink the location of these machines," Burger said.
Many banks, petroleum companies and retailers had taken to installing ATMs inside a building to guard against attacks, Spark ATM systems managing director Marc Sternberg said on Friday.
"In-store ATMs have not been attacked because there is a much more improved security profile. There are alarms, closed-circuit television, guards, and locking facilities for after hours," he said.
"The bombers or gangs go for street-facing ATMs or exposed ATMs where they can gain access."
Most of these attacks took place between 02:00 and 05:00 in areas with poor lighting.
Many attacks were inside jobs as it would be pointless to break open a machine with no money, Sternberg said.
Even then, attackers seldom got away with anything as they either blew up money or activated dye-spraying machines.
Since the start of the year, ATM attacks had taken place in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, North West, and Western Cape.
Sternberg said he was concerned by the Western Cape attacks as the province had remained mostly unaffected so far.
On Tuesday, robbers made off with cash after blowing up an ATM near a convenience store in Durban Road, Bellville.
An ATM on Vasco Boulevard in Goodwood, Cape Town, was bombed in the early hours of Friday morning.
Captain Frederick van Wyk said it was unclear whether money was taken. Police were investigating a case of malicious damage to property.