Johannesburg - There has been at least one cash-in-transit (CIT) heist a day nationally since the beginning of the year, and more than half of these took place in Gauteng.
A total of 35 CITs have been recorded in the country since the start of the year, and 21 of these were committed in Gauteng. The robberies had almost stopped for about a few months following a harrowing 2018 that saw 179 CITs being committed between January and July of that year.
On Thursday, the N3 highway near Spruitview, Ekurhuleni, was brought to a standstill after a cash van was bombed during an attempted robbery. The driver of the vehicle was shot in the head and left in a critical condition.
A video on social media showed four suspects attempting to rob the vehicle in front of other motorists. The suspects then fled in a white BMW closely followed by a white VW Polo.
According to the City of Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management Services, the suspects escaped unharmed and the scene was handed over to the police.
On Monday, a gang of heavily armed men pushed a cash van off the road in Kempton Park, forcing it open with explosives before shooting the driver and fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash.
ER24 spokesperson Ineke van Huyssteen said the driver was shot in the head and was stabilised at the scene before being flown by helicopter to hospital.
The chief executive of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre, Susan Potgieter, told The Star that since 2020 began, there had been about 35 CIT incidents nationally.
Gauteng had experienced 21 incidents in the past two months. Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga had had three incidents each, KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape had two incidents each and Northern Cape had one, she said.
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said that not all the CIT incidents were categorised as heists because an incident is only considered a heist if the suspects get away with money.
“We, as the joint security forces that are deployed to deal with this, more often than are able to be foil them, together with the security companies that are involved. There will always be attempts, I don’t know what the reasons are, but people will try to commit these robberies. However, the question is the measures we have in place to mitigate that risk,” he said.
Naidoo added that the security forces put measures in place to tackle heist gangs, but the gangs came back with new modi operandi.
“Before it was happening a lot in the suburbs and business areas, and then they moved to very rural areas and now they’re coming to the highways. They are trying to be a step ahead of us, but we’re always catching up with the modi operandi,” said Naidoo.
Dr Hennie Lochner, a senior lecturer in forensic and criminal investigation science at Unisa, said there wasn’t any one specific reason why more heists were happening. However, he added that the heists were not being conducted by the same gangs.
“After a successful CIT robbery each of them goes their own way, and then immediately after that, each and every one is looking for a new target. If I identify the possible target, I will phone the previous group members and say ‘I have information on this. Let us start planning,’” he said.
Lochner said that if the police apprehended a gang but didn’t get every member of the gang, the heists would continue.
“It’s like cancer cells, if you do not cut them out, then it will definitely spread again,” he said.
He added that CIT robbers were highly intelligent criminals and very dangerous.
Anti-crime advocate Yusuf Abramjee said it was worrying that CIT robbers had become so brazen, and that they were using more explosives to blow up the vans.
“The quicker the police get to the bottom of getting the people who are involved in selling and dealing and trading in explosives, the better it will be. But it seems to me a number of gangs are coming back largely in Gauteng,” Abramjee said.@Chulu_M