Durban - Incidents of bank customers in KwaZulu-Natal being robbed of large sums of money has risen dramatically since January, with armed bandits making off with R880 000 this week alone.

Police have urged people to be more vigilant and change their banking schedules after a spate of attacks in Durban.

While police do not release crime statistics on request, a police source said there had been almost 40 attacks on bank customers in Durban since January.

“There has been an attack almost every week. In the past couple weeks the number of attacks has increased dramatically. What is also concerning from a policing point of view is that these gangs are using automatic weapons to hold up people,” the source said.

In the latest incident on Monday, a gang armed with R-1 rifles and sidearms robbed a businessman of R450 000. He had gone to the bulk teller kiosk at a Queensburgh bank, where he withdrew the money for his business.

Police said four armed men approached him in the car park and demanded he hand over the cash.

On Saturday, a Chinese businessman and his son were robbed of R430 000, also by four men, soon after leaving a bank at Davenport Centre, Glenwood.

Police believe these were two of the largest amounts taken from individuals in Durban since the so-called “knocker gangs” – which follow victims after cash withdrawals from banks – emerged a few years ago.

The Chinese businessman’s son, who did not want to be named, said they were traumatised by the incident.

“We were coming out of the bank when all of a sudden these four men in a black BMW ran towards us and demanded the keys to our car,” he said.

“They knew that we had put the bag of money in the boot and they went straight for it. Afterwards they just drove off.”

Police believe that a “spotter” linked to the gang had identified the two businessmen inside the bank and followed them outside, where his accomplices held them up.

Police were yesterday trying to establish if one gang was responsible for both robberies.

According to the police source, there were several knocker gangs operating in the province.

“The spotters pretend to be customers in the bank and would usually stand in the queue of the bulk teller kiosk where they watch the transactions people are doing.

“If a person in the queue walks into the bank with nothing but leaves with a bag, the spotter will then follow the customer out of the bank and alert his accomplices,” he said.

“In some instances the gang will rob the customer at his car, but there are cases where they actually follow the customer all the way to his house and when he arrives there, then they rob him.”

Patrol units in Durban have been given descriptions of at least one spotter and have been on the look-out for him.

“They are constantly changing the bank outlet they target. But what they do is look for weaknesses to exploit,” the source said.

“Most of the banks that are targeted do not have CCTV cameras outside. Also banks that have bio-metric access are never targeted because they know that their fingerprints and photographs are captured.”

According to the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), incidents of people being robbed after withdrawing money from banks haverisen dramatically in KZN since January, with a 69 percent increase in such robberies compared to the same period last year.

Bongani Diako, spokesman for Sabric, said this was worrying because similar attacks elsewhere in the country had dropped by 8 percent compared to last year.

“The banking industry is working closely with the SA Police Service to bring the perpetrators to book. We are also embarking on extensive customer awareness initiatives as this crime type is primarily targeting customers,” Diako said.

Police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said no arrests had been made but both incidents were being investigated.

“The police are doing the patrols in the area and the members of the community are asked to be vigilant at all times and change their depositing times,” he said. - Daily News

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