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Cash-in-transit crime drops, but concerns abound

Cohesive crime-fighting strategy lacking, industry says.

During Easter 1977, R1 million in cash and jewellery was stolen from Standard Bank in Krugersdorp.

In a crime that remains unsolved, the robbers gained entry by digging a tunnel below the bank.

Today, criminals have become much more sophisticated, but cash crime remains a headache. Although digital payments have become mainstream, South African Reserve Bank statistics show that notes and coins in circulation have been growing steadily, reaching R140 billion in 2018.

Statistics collated by Cash Connect in collaboration with the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa and the South African Banking Risk Information Centre show that there has been a 23% drop in cash-in-transit crime in the year to February 28, 2019 compared to the same period a year earlier. Retail cash crime, which includes ATMs in the retail space, fell 7%.

Richard Phillips, joint-CEO of Cash Connect, says that while the figures have come down, they are still extremely high.

Towards the middle of 2018, there was an enormous amount of activity on the part of the collective crime fighting cluster to address cash-in-transit crime and, because of that, there has been a significant drop in hits against cash-in-transit armed vehicles.

Phillips says there is a lot of cooperation between the private sector and the police.

No cohesive strategy

“What I’m concerned about is that there doesn’t seem to be a cohesive, collective crime-fighting strategy implemented that ensures continuity of the fight.”

Over the years, there seem to be periods where cash-in-transit heists spike significantly, and then suddenly everybody wakes up and fights, only for the situation to go through the roof again after a while, he adds.

“I think that is an unacceptable situation and it can never come right unless you have a sustainable integrated approach to cash crime.”

Forty-six percent of all retail cash crime takes place in Gauteng.

Source: Cash Connect

While there could be many reasons for the trend, Phillips says it could be due to Gauteng’s proximity to the source of explosives, which often come from the mining industry.

Fifty-four percent of the attacks against Cash Connect over the last year were bombings where plastics explosives were used.

“We’ve also noticed quite a significant improvement in the quality of the professionalism with which the bombers go about their business of placing and detonating their explosives.”

Task teams come and go

Dr Johan Burger from the Institute of Security Studies says the police are currently crisis-driven and when something comes up as a major problem – like the cash-in-transit robberies during 2017/18 – task teams are put together to address these problems.

“Very often the problem with that approach is it is sporadic, and after this is more or less brought down – not necessarily under control – then the police have to move on to other stuff.”

While there has been a measure of success in arresting some of these cash-in-transit robbers, they usually just move to other targets.

“What we have in practice is a circulation of the same kind of syndicates and we just move from one target to another depending on what the risks are,” Burger says.

There have been some improvements in the police given the appointment of a new Hawks head, Godfrey Lebeya, and the new head of crime intelligence, Peter Jacobs, he adds.

“The problem is those are individuals. The problems that they inherited are far bigger than they are able to handle at the moment.”

With the Easter weekend approaching, retailers have been warned that there was a 16% increase in retail robberies and burglaries over Easter last year compared to the prior year and have been advised to be vigilant. 

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This thing of police not policing with intelligence and only working on crises , reactive mode is not sustainable. I was amazed once when I heard that police intelligence department have the biggest police budget. They use it to do what exactly?

We have another crises also of police personnel wanting by force to be upgraded to higher positions just because of the number of years and not because of performance!!

Please government workers take note from private companies, you only get a higher position if it is available, after an interview or performance evaluation and after getting a certain score for a certain period.
In private sector also position s are available by movement of someone by death, upgrade or someone on that higher position gets another job with another company. You are not just entitled.

Dear Editor, this sound more like “advertorial” and scare-mongering.

“Forty-six percent of all retail cash crime takes place in Gauteng” … you forgot the main reason for this: Gauteng is the economic hub of our country, so obviously most of this crime will happen in Gauteng, DUH!

Part of cutting down on cash in transit crimes is to reduce the amount of cash in transit. Here SARS could help: make cash payments disallowable … most businesses would then force their wage-earners to accept EFTs.

Coupled with this, “assist” the banks to make low-cost accounts available to low income earners. This would have a knock-on effect on township spazas and shops accepting digital payments. There are several apps and other initiatives available that could also be promoted. Forcing taxis to take digital would be helpful but difficult.

This would not END the problem but will make a start. It may also cut down on tax evasion via till-skimming.

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