Hawks eye cash-in-transit robberies
The net could be closing in on the country’s top 20 cash-in-transit (CIT) robbers, with the Hawks having put a time-frame of four weeks to put behind bars the criminals said to have carried out the hits on more than 100 cash vans and getting away with millions of rands in cash.
Gauteng Hawks head Major-General Prince Mokotedi, who is leading a national anti-cash heist unit, told The Sunday Independent they had compiled an “interest list” of 122 suspects.
He said the police were now moving to pick them up, one by one.
“There are 122 persons of interest, and we have compiled a top 20 who must be found in the next four weeks,” he said.
He said since August last year, they had tracked the trends associated with the crime as well as the modus operandi and they were making progress.
According to the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), cash-in-transit heists have spiralled out of control, with a heist recorded at least once a day on average.
This is according to figures released this past week, showing that 140 cash-in-transit robberies had taken place since January. The figures are an increase from last year’s 129 heists recorded in the same period.
Mokotedi said the Hawks had identified two trends: armoured vehicles (AV) and cross-pavement attacks
“With respect to the AVs, there are two or three types. They stop the vehicle by shooting at it and forcing it to stop.
“The other modus operandi is where they ram the vehicle, forcing it to stop. Those are the basic modus operandi for them, but we have noticed that we have different groups,” Mokotedi said.
Efforts to curtail the crime have shown there is an enterprise that consists of a chain of operations to get the job done.
According to Gareth Newham, head of the justice and violence prevention programme at the Institute for Security Studies, not that many people were involved in the heists.
He said the police should “develop a clear and dedicated strategy that identifies and gathers hard evidence against the criminal networks and individuals involved in cash-in-transit heists”.
Newham said, however, that this year would be the second consecutive year that the police recorded an increase. Gauteng has so far recorded the most incidents at 56, followed by Mpumalanga and the Eastern Cape, both at 18.
Mokotedi said the increase had been attributed to splinter groups formed from the initial core groups that existed in the past.
“We had a few core groups, three or four of them, and then there were splinter groups. You’ll find that three guys who belonged to the initial group of 15 went out and established their own groups.
“Now we have about six or seven groups that originated from the core groups. That has resulted in the spike we are seeing,” Mokotedi said.
The splinter groups are believed to exist because of the high rewards associated with the crime. The recent attacks have also seen explosives being used to blow up the vans.
“Then you have a certain number of bombers who don’t belong to a group but are outsourced based on the need.
“They also have a number of guys supplying them with vehicles. These are hijacked and stolen.
“Essentially it’s an enterprise. You have a supplier of vehicles, a supplier of safe houses, a supplier of ammunition and the bombers.
“There is also the person who puts the plan together and also, in some of the cases, someone who works or has worked with the armoured vehicles firm for logistical issues.
“We are focusing on that chain. We are focusing our attention on locating the bombers, identifying them and picking them up,” he said.
The police have now identified a number of places where the criminals get their explosives.
Plans have been set afoot to stifle the supply and deter the crimes.
Mokotedi said they have had some successes in this regard.
“A month or so ago we arrested five people, including two police officers in the Free State who were supplying explosives.
“We are looking at the areas of old mines and where mines are operating such as Rustenburg, where they carry explosives.
“We know that if we can stop the supply of explosives we will get somewhere.
“We have been able to recover some of the AK47s they use and we believe we are getting somewhere,” he said.
Despite having a list of 122 suspects, the arrest rate has been slow.
Since August last year, the police have arrested only 24 people and their cases are ongoing.
Mokotedi said of the 24, only one or two had been granted bail.
“We have to go back to basic policing because most of these people, when you check their criminal records, they have serious cases that were never attended to.
“Murder, house robberies, motor vehicle robberies and the carrying of firearms.
“In the case of the four that we arrested on Friday in Queenswood, their records are horrible.
“It’s possession of a firearm, stolen goods, and they were never attended to. Most of their cases were withdrawn. There was a lapse somewhere,” he said.
Mokotedi has called upon the security companies to intensify their own security to deter the crimes.
He said they told the security companies to have back-up vehicles and to increase the number of crewmen inside.
“They have to be more vigorous in terms of security.
“They must look at state-of-the-art security so that, if the car stops in whatever way, it must send a signal so that we can respond timeously.
“Because if we can get the signal within a minute, we can get to that point within 10 minutes, latest.
“It takes them between six and eight minutes to do that job,” he said.
The Sunday Independent