Beware of your routine

2015-08-23 08:51
Safe City camera operator Ntombenhle Ndlovu sifts through footage to identify suspects and detect criminal activity in Pietermaritzburg.

Safe City camera operator Ntombenhle Ndlovu sifts through footage to identify suspects and detect criminal activity in Pietermaritzburg. (Amil Umraw)

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CHANGE your routines or face the consequences.

This is the message from security experts as businesses in KwaZulu-Natal deal with a spike in both burglaries and robberies.

Pietermaritzburg has experienced annual increases in burglaries over a decade, peaking at 378 during the 2013/2014 year. A similar trend was noted in Durban’s trendy Berea and Morningside area and in the CBD.

And security industry representatives expect no change in the trend when the latest crime statistics are released in September. They say that business owners need to make a basket of changes or face increased burglaries and robberies.

The first warning from security companies and cash management experts is for businesses to move away from the traditional manual in-store cash management, which they say lures criminal syndicates.

After analysing statistics of crime trends in the country, Cash Connect Management Solutions CEO Richard Phillips advises business owners to opt for a multifaceted approach, including physical and electronic methods, to deter criminals.

Phillips said the traditional approach — in which cashiers collect money at the tills over the course of the day and then take it to a supervisor, who physically counts the cash “coin for coin” before preparing a bank deposit — attracts organised criminal syndicates that suss out stores where the maximum amount of cash is available at particular times.

Instead, Phillips suggested that businesses implement versatile automated cash management solutions that include increasing security in and around the premises through guarding, fencing and lighting, as well the use of smart safes, automated entry to cash offices and biometric identification for cashiers.

“The most important thing is that your safe should be robust. A 100 kg machine can be removed in a few seconds and since last year there has also been a massive increase in the use of plastic explosives to access safes,” he said.

Older vaults and safes can also be broken into using sledge hammers, chisels, angle grinders and drills, and cutting torches.

A security boss who asked not to be named said most syndicates target cash, and the information about the location of safes and the amount of money in them is commonly provided by staff.
“Routine is your worst enemy,” he said.

The security boss said he had seen a decrease in robberies where businesses installed systems where cashiers deposited money from their tills into the safe themselves, and at regular intervals. They were handed receipts that were given to company supervisors and auditors.

“As well as limiting the cash shrinkage from the till to the bank, because of money crossing hands all the time, this system also puts the responsibility on the cashiers and stops too many people from knowing exactly how much money is in the vault.”

Compusafe Electronic Asset Security owner Ian Colls said that rather than trying to prevent criminals from gaining entry into their premises, businesses should rather manage the time criminals have on the premises before reaction units arrive, which will determine their losses.

Colls said pepper spray alarms — independent systems that disperse pepper spray when activated — are proving most effective.

Police statistics released last year ­indicated there were more than 18 600 business robberies, equating to about 50 incidents per day, throughout the country in the financial year ending March 2014. This figure does not include business burglaries, which were even higher.

The Witness reported last month that a gang of burglars had broken into five businesses in the CBD in the space of four days, escaping with more than R100 000.

In Durban, a security company recently reported that there had been 18 break-ins at businesses in the Morningside area between June 4 and August 1.

A similar modus operandi was used at all the businesses, with the burglars forcing their way into the premises through doors and windows and stealing only electronic equipment like laptops and computers.

According to Safe City’s Lucas Holtzhausen, burglars entered through the roof in more than 60% of burglaries in Pietermaritzburg.

“Always regard the roof of your premises as an entry point. Motion detectors should be installed on roofs and in ceilings and, most importantly, camera cables running through the ceilings should be protected,” he said.

Holtzhausen advised that cameras should be positioned strategically, and their recording drives concealed and well sealed.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime  |  security
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