Listen, we all know that cash-in-transit heists in South Africa are out of control.
But when an international media outlet like the BBC is calling them a “national emergency”, then you know that they’re much worse than we thought.
The outlet has penned an article on the topic, which they have referred to as an “epidemic which has seen millions of rand disappear into the hands of highly organised criminal gangs”.
When one looks at the stats, that bold statement makes a great deal of sense.
It’s been estimated that there have been more than 150 cash-in-transit heists in 2018 alone, which roughly equates to one a day. With a 104% rise in cash-in-transit robberies from 2016 to 2017, the 2018 figures are also set to rise.
[The heists] can involve a gang swooping on an armoured vehicle as it drives down the road, shooting out the tyres before using explosives to get the doors open.
Or the security guard can be targeted when they are at their most vulnerable: as they leave the premises carrying the cash, in what is known as a “cross pavement” attack.
The brazen gangs of thieves range in size from about 10 to 20 armed members, and they have no qualms about executing their operations in broad daylight. Look no further than the Boksburg heist that went down last month.
The thieves aren’t simply ordinary guys, either, according to journalist Annelise Burgess, who has researched the subject:
The “foot soldiers” – the men who carry out the heists – have worked their way up from home burglaries and car-jackings to become part of these gangs.
“By the time you are selected, you are seen as the cream of the crop, so to speak,” Ms Burgess tells the BBC.
At the top, she adds, are about 200 “kingpins”, who will work across province boundaries to carry out attacks with … apparent “military precision”.
If you think that’s scary, some police officers are also in on the take as well:
Ms Burgess can list a number of cases which have been directly linked to police officers – although, she points out, most of them are working at a “low level” within the service, helping make the arrest dockets disappear when gang members are finally apprehended.
There have been other cases when police officers have been far more involved, including one former officer in South Africa’s elite unit, the Hawks, who was allegedly due to pocket tens of millions of rand for his role keeping a gang out of trouble in just one heist.
He has since been found guilty.
So if the people who are meant to uphold justice are involved in heists as well, then what can be done to combat them?
Burgess reckons there’s been an “enormous crackdown” on the gangs over the last few weeks, with police officers who actually care about tackling these crimes making swift arrests.
It doesn’t mean that the alleged suspects aren’t carrying out the operations from behind bars, though:
One inmate boasted to South Africa’s Sunday Times that he could make tens of thousands of rand as a go-between, organising the gangs and the guns needed to carry out the heists, despite being in prison …
[Burgess] is aware of several gangs who will be released in the medium- to short-term who are already making plans for their release – and it does not involve living a crime-free life.
You can read the full piece by the BBC here. It’s grim material, but if it’s enough to open our eyes on the topic and get South Africans to take initiative against crimes like this, then read on.
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