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There has been a shockingly sharp increase in the amount of cash-in-transit heist syndicates that have moved from specific, remote locations to inner-city areas due to the fact that the criminals are actually getting away with it.

Fidelity CEO, Wahl Bartmann, has reviewed the videos and says that these syndicates "operate like well-oiled machines" and that the robbers actually organise the attack. He said its done in an almost professional manner, "If you look at the videos in the media, the people are well trained, and they are equipped. They don't even take one truck. They start taking two trucks in a metropolitan area. The way they handle themselves, they are professionals."

He said the robbers have "dedicated people doing certain things at a time. They have people who deal with the explosives. They [have] people who are shooting, and they have people who are specialised in driving. Where do they get the get the explosives and how do we control that? We have seen the influx of AK47s back in the country".

On the 21st of May 2018 a group of 10 armed men in Limpopo attacked a Fidelity van, bombing the vehicle and shooting at the crew sitting in the back, one of whom was wounded. The robbers escaped with an undisclosed amount of money without being caught. The day before the Limpopo attack, police went sent to hunt down the eight suspects involved in a cash-in-transit heist at Southdale Mall, just outside the Johannesburg CBD. The robbers surrounded the van, pointing guns at the driver, forcing him to open the van and escaped with an undisclosed amount of money.

On the 17th of May, five robbers were arrested on the scene of a cash-in-transit heist after they blew up two G4S vans and the rest of the men escaped. On the 5th of July, explosions and gunfire from another cash-in-transit heist woke up Boksburg residents at 6am on Atlas road near the N12. The police's Vish Naidoo reported that the security guards were involved in the shootout with the suspects in which one of the suspects was shot and killed.

An AK47 rifle was seized, however, the suspects did not steal any money. According to Naidoo, one security guard was injured after being shot in the hand but Motor Transport Workers Union spokesperson, Hlasinyane Motaung, noted that “Three of our members were injured. One has been shot in the leg‚ the driver was shot in the arm‚ and the crewman was also injured". The emergency personnel that arrived on the scene reported that a female passenger in a taxi also sustained a gunshot wound during the attempted heist and was in a critical condition.

Just a few hours after the Boksburg incident, a group of men targeted a cash van in Dobsonville, making off with an undisclosed amount of money and the vehicles were recovered on Friday morning. Johannesburg Metro Police spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said that the suspects escaped the scene in a white Ford Ranger and a silver Volvo and there’s still a search for some of the suspects.

The police have identified a trend that has emerged with the cash-in-transit heists of using explosives, which is different to the previous incidents of cash in transit heists. Many explosives that were intended to be used in the heists have been taken, which means that the police and investigators are looking at the robbers' methodology behind the crime in order to track them down via the channels they use to get explosives. The police are starting to close in on the supply lines they use, cutting them off from the ability to get explosives, although this may not have an immediate effect.

The cash-in-transit vehicles are, technically, separated from the money they are carrying as it is held in a secured cabin within the van which, is what the criminals intend to do by using explosives. National Crime Intelligence head, Peter Jacobs, fears that the industry has been using poor quality vans which may be making the attacks easier. Research and investigation also points to the fact that policemen are involved in these robberies and in the planning of the heist, delivering and accessing guns, sharing information, and collaborating the attack in order to create a smooth operation and escape.

But Bartmann said Fidelity was doing everything in its power to curb the surge in cash-in-transit heists in South Africa. Fidelity has recruited extra security measures to prevent any more robberies including a helicopter, "The security officers are all provided with bulletproof vests, semi-automatic rifles, and we do training with them," he added. All Fidelity employees will also be put through a rigorous recruitment process involving polygraph tests before they are employed and during their employment period. "We do lifestyle audits, we do criminal vetting and everything that is necessary. We try and make sure that the people we employ are honest and we can rely on them. Our recruitment qualifications are very high."

The spokesperson for G4S, Wendy Hardy, released a statement saying that her attention would be on the safety of their staff. "We are at the forefront of innovative and ever-changing technologies that protect our drivers and make it harder and more dangerous for criminals who try to target our vehicles. "We are evolving and rolling out new security features all the time, so criminals can never know what they are up against," Hardy said.

The cash-in-transit drivers and guards have had enough, saying that the heists have reached levels of crisis. At least 140 cash-in-transit robberies have taken place between January 2018 to May 2018 and has reached an average of at least one attack a day.

Fidelity has spent more than R4.5 million in back-up and support to secure resources and assets and, most importantly, to protect the drivers and guards. It has been reported that these incidents are being carried out by approximately 200 robbers and that the criminals have become increasingly bold in their attacks.

Experts say, "The cash-in-transit pandemic is understated ... the statistics show that, in 2014, there were 180 cash-in-transit incidents. The cash-in-transit incidents in 2017 increased by 105% to 370 in just three years. The main reason for the extreme increase could be attributed to the fact that cash-in-transit vehicles are seen as 'soft and easy targets' due to under-investment in strong security measures and that the security companies focuses primarily on maximising profits."

South Africa's trade unions Motor Transport Workers Union's (MTWU) and Fedusa have listed many weaknesses in the safety and security of the cash-in-transit industry which they perceive are some of the major reasons for the crisis:

  1. The vehicles used are vulnerable and out-dated.
  2. There are not enough security officers guarding the vehicle and assisting in the process.
  3. The weak weapons and out-dated equipment that security officers are given to defend themselves.
  4. Security officers are not given adequate training.
  5. Low employee morale, high staff turnover and improper disciplinary action.
  6. The lack of focus on basic safety precautions.
  7. The lack of support and follow through of MTWU submissions to numerous officials such as:
    7.1 Minister of Safety and Security
    7.2 Minister of Transport
    7.3 Governor of the South Africa Reserve Bank
    7.4 Nedlac

The parliament's police portfolio committee is meeting to discuss the important issues and possible solutions to the cash-in-transit heist crisis including:

  1. The ability and preparedness of the South African Police Services.
  2. The communication and collaboration between SAPS and private security companies.
  3. The hiring procedures employed in the police force and private security industry.
  4. The condition and standard of training vehicles and protective gear of security officers.
  5. The governing environment and the contribution of PSIRA (Private Security Industry Regulation Authority).
  6. The collaboration between the banking and law enforcement sectors.
  7. Ways in which technological modification to stop the factors and influences that lead to cash-in-transit heists.
    The discussions will begin on the 13th of June 2018 in parliament.

The issue needs to be prioritised in parliament and, for the sake of the security guards' safety, there is a dire need for the introduction of dedicated elite units that can be actively involved in intelligence gathering and deploying the vehicles.

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