Cash is king for crooks as heists, ATM bombings increase

Cash van. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Cash van. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Cape Town - The police should reprioritise the prevention of robberies for cash following the 15.1% increase in cash-in-transit heists and ATM bombings, said Richard Phillips, joint CEO of Cash Connect Management Solutions.

"Organised crime is becoming… confident and is refocusing on the big prize - armoured trucks responsible for moving cash," he said.

After a steady decline from 467 cash-in-transit heists in 2006/7 to 119 in 2014/15, this type of crime is enjoying resurgence. For the period 2015/16, there was a sudden spike to 137 cash in transit robberies.

Phillips warned that gangs seem able to arm themselves with effective weaponry, even plastic explosives if necessary, and their hits show careful planning.

Cash-in-transit heists used to be treated as a priority crime, with police intelligence identifying gangs of organised criminals and working to remove them from society.

"But that has been allowed to slip," said Phillips.

Trends show that any business that holds cash is at risk, especially retailers.

"They have clearly found a weakness in retail and wholesale where cash is a dominant feature, and they are playing havoc. It is so easy for these guys," Phillips added.

Companies that still manually count their cash and take it to the bank in a plastic bag give him the shivers, Phillips said.

Not just big business

According to the crime statistics, bank robberies were down 64% with only six in 2015/16.

The biggest increases in cash-in-transit heists were in the Eastern Cape, where they went up by 90% from 10 to 19, and the Western Cape where they are up 60% from 15 to 24.

Cash-in-transit heists in Gauteng were down 17.9% with 32 incidents for the latest period compared with 39 for 2014/15.

Of the six reported bank robberies this year two were in Gauteng, one in Mpumalanga and three in the North West.

According to a presentation by police Minister Nathi Nhleko, in a study of 4 128 business robbery cases reported from September to November 2015, cash was taken in 83% of the cases.

But it was not just big business that was targeted.

According to this analysis, 22.8% were spaza or tuck shops, 12.2% were supermarkets, 7.4% were general dealers, butcheries and cafés, 7.1% were bars, and 7% were petrol station shops, 6.7% were farm stalls and 5.6% were clothing stores.

"With the current cash in circulation figure of R130bn as recorded by the SA Reserve Bank, crime against businesses with high cash turnover is without a doubt still a serious problem.

"Unless something drastic happens the impact it has on our economy seems like a long-term reality," said Phillips.

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