Moving Money Is A Risky Business - Business Media MAGS

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Moving Money Is A Risky Business

Focused collaboration to stop the increase in cash-in-transit heists may be working, says Georgina Guedes.

After years of decline, cash-in-transit (CIT) heists are back on the rise. According to the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) there were 180 attacks on CIT vehicles in 2014, but in 2017, there were 370. This amounts to an increase of 105 per cent in just three years (The latest SAPS crime stats report a slightly lower number, but a similarly dramatic rise). By the end of May this year, when Sabric released its latest figures, more than 140 attacks had already occurred.

“The CIT industry is the very artery of our economy and if, for whatever reason, it was brought to a halt, the economy would be throttled,” says Richard Phillips, joint CEO of local currency delivery and storage specialist, Cash Connect Management Solutions.

CIT heists have become a significant risk on the South African cash management landscape, and getting cash into the market is increasingly dangerous for the individuals tasked with doing the job. However, significant action taken by all industry stakeholders has yielded positive short-term results. While this might not be sustainable, it shows what can be done when a focused anticrime strategy is launched.

Progress, But The Fight Continues

In June, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that the number of CIT heists had dropped dramatically since the start of an “aggravated robbery stabilisation campaign” that began in mid-April.

He said that nationwide the number of CIT heists dropped by 63 per cent since the start of the campaign. The greatest impact was in Gauteng. Usually, there are around 10 attacks a month in the province: only seven were recorded during the campaign.

It would be premature to read too much into the figures, but the important fact is that over 40 suspects were arrested, including suspected kingpin Wellington Cenenda and several police officers believed to be working with criminals. The police were also given an additional 50 high-performance vehicles to aid them in their fight against this criminal activity.

“While we’re satisfied with the progress, our fight with these criminals is not yet over,” Cele said.

He’s right. While June’s significant reduction is certainly a good news story, the violent and dangerous crime of cash-in-transit heists remains an ongoing problem that must be addressed.

“Sabric and the cash-in-transit industry are working closely with SAPS and the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) in efforts to address this scourge,” says Kalyani Pillay, the CEO of Sabric. “All I can say at this stage is that these issues are receiving priority attention both within law enforcement and the CIT companies.”

She says that her organisation’s CIT members are constantly reviewing the security risks and deploying various mechanisms to assist in mitigating them. Technological solutions are part of this consideration.

Support, Training And Upgraded Equipment

“High levels of risk remain prevalent on a day-to-day basis within the industry,” says Wahl Bartmann, the CEO of Fidelity Security Group. “In this regard, we do our very best to ensure that we safeguard the lives of our staff and the assets of our clients with the use of technology together with armoured vehicles, bullet-proof vests and note dye-stain protection. In addition, we also deploy ground and air support in liaison with the SAPS.”

Bartmann says that Fidelity has a comprehensive training programme, which includes a stringent screening process with polygraphs and criminal checks, then a pre-assessment for any mental health issues such as depression before employees are appointed. Once complete, there is an intensive five-week course including on-the-job training, which includes a CIT course.

For personnel on the road, there is ongoing support and checking, including integrity assessments, refresher training and legal compliance, yearly tests and evaluations, and psychological referral as needed.

“Then on the hardware side, we do everything in our power to ensure our officers are safe,” says Bartmann. “In this financial year, R96-million will be invested in the replacement and upgrade of armoured vehicles and other equipment including firearms, semi-automatic rifles and bullet-proof and protective uniforms across the group. It will also include remote mobile monitoring and CCTV surveillance as well as proactive helicopter support patrols across the Eastern Cape, KZN and Gauteng.”

Stakeholders Working Together

Bartmann says that CIT heists have moved beyond just an industry issue. “We have come to a point where money is no longer safe, our employees are being attacked and civilians can no longer safely drive on the roads without fear of an attack. The violent crimes are being masterminded by highly-trained professionals, often with inside information, who have access to explosives and illegal firepower and who, in general, have little fear of being arrested or prosecuted.”

To this end, he says, Fidelity, other security firms, Sabric and the SAPS are actively involved in collaborative threat surveillance, risk detection and tactical support with the relevant authorities.

“It is very encouraging to see the recent arrests that have been made by the SAPS, but we can never afford to be complacent, particularly when there are also allegedly people of the criminal justice system involved, whether these be police, lawyers, magistrates, prosecutors or metro police.”

Bartmann believes that visible policing is key, and that the introduction of dedicated elite units that can be actively involved in intelligence gathering and resource deployment will ultimately lead to better prosecution.

“We look forward to working with Minister Bheki Cele, the national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole and the new Hawks head advocate Godfrey Lebeya on these issues,” he says. “We know that there are several key people spearheading these attacks and that is where the intelligence is so critical.”

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