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The situation is not normal’: 60 cash-in-transit heists in just three months in SA, crime stats show

Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday presented the quarterly crime statistics, reflecting on the crimes committed from 1 October 2021 to 31 December 2021. While there was an increase in murders, overall contact crimes decreased by 4%, compared to the same period the year before. Cele said the 6 859 murders in the third quarter were 562 more than last year this time.

  • Cash-in-transit heists are down to 60 robberies for October to December 2021, compared with the 65 in 2020. 
  • This is no comfort to the guards who risk their lives to move the country’s cash around. 
  • A former guard says not only are they traumatised, their families are too whenever they see another robbery in the news. 

Cash-in-transit guards are in a state of trauma after the increasingly violent attacks on their vans, a guards’ union says after the release of the latest crime statistics on Friday.

According to the police’s records, between October and December 2021, 60 cash-in-transit robberies were reported. 

The reduction from 65 for the same period in 2020 is no comfort to the guards and drivers who transport large quantities of cash for businesses and banks. 

“The situation is not normal,” Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers’ Union spokesperson Praisewell Nsibande told News24. 

“If one of the guards has a breakdown on the way home, or they are stuck in traffic, their families panic,” said Nsibande. 

“When they see on the news that a cash van has been bombed, it is even worse.”

He said life as a person guarding cash on the move had become extremely dangerous and traumatic. 

They take the jobs either because it is a calling to help protect people’s assets, or because they need the job.

Vans are bombed, guards are murdered, and in the immediate aftermath, with ears still ringing, the robbers have one more safeguard to help them escape.  

They often open one of the boxes of cash and scatter it on the road to destabilise the situation even further to escape quickly while bystanders grab the notes.

A school bus travelling along the N4 in Witbank late Friday night was apprehended by armed robbers who blocked the highway with rocks. The bus, carrying four teachers and the driver, hit the rocks and ruptured a tyre.

This means guards cannot use their weapons to protect the cash in case they hit one of the bystanders rushing to grab discarded notes. 

“It’s a very scary situation,” said Nsibande. 

According to the statistics compiled by the police, between October and December 2021, Gauteng had 22 reported cash-in-transit robberies, the Free State two, Eastern Cape 10, KwaZulu-Natal seven, Limpopo and Mpumalanga five each and North West six, while none were reported in the Northern Cape for that period.

Nsibande added although guards felt as though they were the “number one suspect” after a heist, they were also shocked to find police officers, and more recently SA National Defence Force members, were being arrested. 

“It’s a very hectic situation.”

News24 reported earlier in February that G4S had raised concerns over the level of violence used when armed gangs target its cash-in-transit vehicles.

G4S South Africa MD Renso Smit said: “Looking at attacks across the year compared with the previous two years, the number of attacks overall has remained relatively constant. Attacks on G4S have also not varied materially from year to year.

“What has changed is the level of violence. Cash-in-transit attacks in general are becoming more violent and organised in nature, and involving a large number of perpetrators.”

For Nsibande, a march in 2018 by guards achieved little once a memoranda of demands was handed over at Parliament. 

The top priorities for the guards are having escorts and back-up, refresher training, new equipment, for stand-in guards to be suitably trained, and for the police to keep a permanent watch at hotspot areas. 

“They put police at a place for about two weeks after a hit near a mall, for example, but then they withdraw them, and the area is hit again,” he said.

–News24

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