Police Minister Bheki Cele has committed himself to taking specialised police units out of the barracks and back on the streets – specifically to take the fight to the gangs that commit cash-in-transit (CIT) heists.
Richard Phillips, joint CEO of Cash Connect and an expert in cash management and logistics, says the industry applauds the Minister’s announcement. “Cash crime, of which CIT heists are a highly visible component, is threatening to bleed our economy dry. The only way to stem the tide is for it to be treated as a priority crime. Revitalising specialised units is a hugely important step towards achieving this.”
South Africa has been rocked by more than 140 CIT heists since the beginning of 2018. While these violent and daring crimes are justifiably front-page news, they mask the fact that at least 57 armed robberies are carried out against businesses every day. In the vast majority of cases, cash is the primary target.
Significantly, Phillips points out that in most cases the same masterminds are behind the different forms of cash crime. “Coordination between crime intelligence, crime fighting and the criminal justice system is therefore crucial if we hope to do more than take out the occasional foot soldier,” he says. “We know that while the guys on the ground are different, the same syndicates are pulling the strings behind the scenes.”
For this reason, Phillips urges Minister Cele to not stop at CIT heists, but to widen the focus to cash crime in general.
Cash represents 58% of South Africa’s GDP. At any given time, around R136 billion worth of cash is in circulation. If the highly specialised service of collecting, transporting and managing cash were to be sabotaged, the business at large could be at risk. Violent cash crimes, which have increased at an alarming rate over the past two years, threaten to cripple the economy and as such should be regarded as crimes against the state.
“The problem goes beyond cash in transit and needs to be seen in the broader context of cash crime in general”, says Phillips. “The statistics support our view that cash crime is spiralling out of control.”
The statistics also support Minister Cele’s approach. In 2006/7, there were 467 CIT heists – an all-time high in this country. Specialised units and unprecedented end-to-end coordination and cooperation in the justice system brought the scourge under control. Hot on the heels of the disbanding of police task teams, the incidents started to increase. In 2016, the figure stood at 278 and jumped significantly to 378 in 2017.
“The industry welcomes the course of action Minister Cele announced,” concludes Phillips. We will continue to make an important contribution to the management of retail cash and are ready to play our part in the multi-faceted approach that is needed to bring cash crime under control.”