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Johannesburg - Cash-in-transit robbers can expect a hard time if they target G4S cash vans. The cash transit firm has launched a new defence against robberies that company managers said should make robberies nearly impossible - foam.
G4S Cash Solutions South Africa plans to roll out 40 vehicles before the end of the year equipped with rapidly expanding foam that hardens to form a rubbery barrier between the valuables and the robber.
The effort is meant to deter criminals and replace armed security personnel in the back of the van.
When triggered, two highly reactive chemicals are forced out at high pressure from two cylinders in the armoured vehicle’s vault. The liquids combine and react, swirling and bubbling at high speed.
Within seconds it turns to foam, filling the vault room. This foam hardens quickly into a rubbery substance that feels like an industrial polyurethane commonly used to insulate buildings. The foam cannot be burned by chemicals or by fire and explodes or cracks if shot at.
The foam-outfitted vehicles, already implemented in the UK where cash-in-transit robbery rates are highest, have increased security for G4S’s UK branch. No robberies have been attempted on any of the foam-equipped vehicles in the UK.
The armoured vehicle is fitted like a Russian matryoshka doll. The safe housing the valuables is the innermost container, the next compartment is the vault where the foam system is located. The outermost layer where robbers would attempt to enter acts as the trigger.
Police or back-up security would probably arrive before a robber could chip through the hardened foam. The foam replaces the need for an armed security guard to protect the safe, decreasing the risk of violence.
“It’s a lot safer because you don’t have to have people risking their lives to save the system,” said Hannes Venter, sales director for G4S.
The foam can be activated by any attempt to open the truck’s back door when not in a secured location, so even the driver has no power to open the door.
This removes the agency of any human in the vehicle to influence access to the goods, making it futile to threaten the driver or employees.
All vehicles equipped with the foam unit travel only from secured location to secured location, like from bank to bank or precious metal mine to refinery, for example.
If another vehicle damages the structure of the armoured wall the system will be activated. The driver can also press a panic button or employees at company headquarters, where live video feeds of the back of the truck are under constant watch, can remotely activate the system.
In the year 2011 to 2012, South African police recorded 83 incidents of attempted cash-in-transit robberies. Cash-in-transit robbery rates have been decreasing in past years, but Venter said his company wanted to stay ahead with technology and increase the safety of its workers.
The technology was developed in South Africa nearly three years ago, Venter said, then perfected and commercialised by UK company Penman Engineering. - The Star