ATM attackers exploiting poor policing

2012-02-03 22:26

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."

61% rise

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.

Inside job

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.

  • Faizie - 2012-02-03 22:55

    Put 10 litres of purple dye on the top of the ATMs in a plastic bag. Boom the ATM explodes ans so does the dye all over the money ans ATM room. Cant spend the cash with dye stains

      TheWatcher - 2012-02-03 23:14

      'Even then, attackers seldom got away with anything as they either blew up money or activated dye-spraying machines.' quoted from above article. Seems its a bit more widely used than I thought.

  • kthage - 2012-02-04 04:16

    What the police need to do better is to go to the source of the problem. How and where are these criminals getting explosives. Someone should be accountable for those explosives, there has to an inventory system. If you cut the supply then you eliminate the problem in the long run. How can we counter terrorism if we can not control explosives in this country of ours?

      General.AlanMuller - 2012-02-04 09:09

      Explosives come from the mines .. the workers that use explosives sell it or the underground illegal miners steal it....

  • Mel - 2012-02-04 04:19

    Thought you had to be experienced to be a detective, not lack experience lol

  • Juan - 2012-02-04 05:09

    Seems like the police is in shambles and being overrun but AA appointees. It's easy to see the decay in the police, just like every other state-run department. Down and down we go to the African standard.

      kthage - 2012-02-04 17:25

      @Juan. You guys are always surprising me, the problem in SA and all spheres of government is not AA, its nepotism. Do you actually know how difficult it is for a qualified black guy to get a job? You actually think that we just rock up to an interview and proclaim our blackness. I for one have been applying for Jobs in SA for the last five years, and have been to several interviews, and yes I'm qualified, maybe over qualified. The problem is that politicians and their friends and relatives are given preferential treatment. Luckily for me I'm employed in USA but I wont stop trying to get a job in SA.

  • Johan - 2012-02-04 06:14

    crime intelligence unit? where does the intelligence fit in? Drop in transit robberies- petrol is too expensive.

  • braamc - 2012-02-04 06:40

    Like everything else, lack of interest, lack of skill/competency, lack of service delivery, lack of accountability, however no lack to fill the pockets, criminals and government, actually no difference between the two.

      Wendy - 2012-02-04 11:42

      spot on!

  • raymond.kok3 - 2012-02-04 06:42

    Muedes Rittest we are going to pay for all the machines thats blown up and the bank will move the machine which will mean if somebody needs a ATM they will have to travel long distances.So the answer is simple reopen murder and robbery units and gets the detectives good training, but these new guys think they knows everything and dont need training

      carpejugulim - 2012-02-04 06:58

      Raymond, they don't care either. Departments are so stats driven now that proper policing takes a back seat to how the stats look on paper

  • Harry Greens Groenewald - 2012-02-04 07:27

    Equity is the problem, the police is a essential service, but they recruit not the best.

  • Roy - 2012-02-04 07:42

    The reason why these ATM's are being hit is because they are getting inside information from bank employees who pass on this info to crooked cops who pass this on to the thieves.

  • Elkieta - 2012-02-04 07:50

    Get the white police back on duty.They can think....

  • Vegi - 2012-02-04 08:13

    Muedes Rittest It is my position that stealing from a thief is not to be frowned upon. The money that the banks profit from does not belong to them nor have the owners of the money consented to the banks extracting the extortionate profits from their deposits. It is a cartel comprising the government and other gangsters (business community)that forces us to put our money at the disposal of these thieves. You are just compelled to send your money to the bank so that it can be stolen. There is very little that you can do if you do not want to deal with the banks. The above mentioned cartel does not want to deal with you if you do not have a bank account. You just need to have a bank account, then your money is stolen while you are looking on helplessly. What pisses me off most is that your money is loaned out to others at exorbitant interest while at the same time you pay the bank extortionate amounts in bank charges. Only a thief sees nothing wrong with this kind of immoral double dipping. In this regard I will never condemn anyone who uses innovative ways of uplifting the stolen money from the thief bank, provided no violence is involved. I particularly applaud the cyber uplifting of the ill gotten gains as well as the harmless shredding the stealing machines.

  • Alva - 2012-02-04 08:54

    Police in the Western Cape need a shake up. Maybe Commissioner Lamoer needs to answer. Many police officers are so obese they can't even move without splitting their clothing let alone run after criminals. Caught sleeping on duty etc. All part of the problem. Getting paid, don't have to work for it.

      TSR01 - 2012-02-04 11:03

      Across all of South Africa, velastardust, not just certain areas - all the lazy cops need to get a clue. If they are not fit for duty, they should be dismissed. There are many reliable individuals out there who would put their lives on the line to make the positive difference in South Africa by fighting crime and injustice - they could use the jobs more than many of the lazy buggers SA has at the moment. P.S. Kudos and much respect to the cops who do their jobs properly. :)

  • Piston - 2012-02-04 11:14 police = crime...

  • Ahmed - 2012-02-04 11:32

    well the bank's are no angels they get robbed then they rob the clients to balance their books at the end of the day.Mampoer Joe.

      Wendy - 2012-02-04 11:44

      so we should just allow criminals to rob atm .. hmmmmm another intelligent solution!

  • bluegoose - 2012-02-04 11:43

    The police need assistance. Supply them with high resolution footage so they can at least have something to work off (history of the event)The banks need to assist in regards to this.Blaming the police force no matter how weak they are is not justified. Get with the programme.

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