The police ministry has welcomed another 10 arrests of suspects in cash-in-transit heists, and is buoyant that most of them were apprehended while still in their pre-execution phase.
Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on police on the South African Police Service’s measures to combat the spike in cash-in-transit-heists, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that since the implementation of the extraordinary intervention measures by his department on June 4 there had been no reported heists and 10 suspects had been arrested.
“There have been 10 arrests in total – six in Mpumalanga, three in Limpopo and one in central Johannesburg, who belonged to the group [of 10 suspects] who pulled off the brazen heist in Boksburg last month. The significant change is that most of the suspects were arrested before action [while still in the planning phase],” said Cele.
The police had been under pressure to break the back of cash-in-transit syndicates because the number of heists for the first six months of 2018 had seen a marked increase compared with 2017, with 159 robberies reported in the first two quarters of this year.
The deputy national commissioner for policing, Lieutenant-General Sehlahle Masemola, said the SAPS had made inroads into stopping the spike in heists and a total of 63 suspects were arrested between April 1 and May 31.
“Nineteen suspects were arrested in Gauteng, 21 in the North West, 18 in Limpopo and two were arrested in Mpumalanga. Thirty-two have remained in custody, 17 are out on bail and 14 were released on a warning,” said Masemola.
Cosatu’s deputy parliamentary coordinator, Matthew Parks, was enraged at this statistic and called for “the Criminal Procedure Act to be amended to ensure that criminals that attack police or security guards are automatically denied bail”.
The major stumbling block towards reducing the number of heists seemed to be the issue of regulation.
The Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (Psira) is the recognised regulator of the security industry. Its researcher, Margaret Chikanga, explained that the SAPS and the South African Reserve Bank needed to be roped in to facilitate concrete regulations that would serve the security industry better.
According to Chikanga, “the Reserve Bank should be involved in regulating the amounts that can be transported at a time, the quality of vaults and safes that security companies deploy and the vehicles used by cash-in-transit companies”.
The researcher said she had found that lesser known companies were employing “Quantum taxi-like” vehicles which, when attacked, automatically led to the loss of lives of the drivers because they were not bulletproof.
Chikanga said another stumbling block when it came to regulation was the safety gear worn by the security officers.
“If Psira were to suggest regulations that included bulletproof vests for all drivers and armoured cars for all companies involved in cash-in-transit this might be a hindrance to entry into the industry to other parties,” said Chikanga.
According to Chikanga’s research, security officers were only required to have driving licences and some firearm competency. She suggested that it would be beneficial if the SAPS would also regulate what sort of training would be adequate for them to withstand attacks from armed robbers.
Parks suggested that, given the fact that criminals were using AK47s, security officers should also be given “automatic rifles” to level the playing field.
The federation also proposed that military veterans be recruited to work in the industry because their military training could come in handy.
SA Reserve bank deputy governor Francois Groepe said the obvious solution would be to switch to crypto currency. However, he explained, the volatility of the currency meant that for now that switch was not a viable option.
Groepe said it was paramount for South Africans to be aware of the fact that this continued spike in cash-in-transit heists could eventually have a knock-on effect on consumers, “as security companies transporting money continued to experience these heists, eventually insurance would increase for them, which might cause increased charges to banks who would hike their bank charges, affecting ordinary South Africans”.
Groepe assured the committee that the Reserve Bank was also busy seeking out solutions to this phenomenon, such as employing dye packs “which are radio-controlled incendiary devices used by banks to foil bank robberies through discharging dye causing stolen cash to be permanently marked shortly after a robbery”.
According to Groepe, there was a need for removing incentives for would-be robbers and dye packs, which permanently mark notes, was one such deterrent.
“We have already approved three types of these SPD devices [dye packs] for use in ATM and smaller money boxes however we have not received any bids to provide smaller devices for cash-in-transit vehicles,” explained Groepe.
Among the other measures suggested to the committee to combat cash-in-transit heists, Cosatu’s deputy parliamentary coordinator proposed a total “ban on privately owned firearms” and suggested that “only registered security officials” should be permitted to own firearms.