Police Minister, General Bheki Cele, says police have arrested 10 more suspects linked to the recent spike in Cash-in-Transit (CIT) heists across the country.
Leading a briefing on the measures to combat cash-in-transit heists to the Portfolio Committee on Police on Wednesday, Cele said the suspects were arrested across three provinces.
The arrest comes as the police has increased its hand to curb the aggravated robberies, most of which have been staged in brazen daylight, through an intervention unit as well as through partnerships with institutions in the commercial banking industry.
“…Not only were six people arrested yesterday, there were 10 – three from Limpopo, six from Mpumalanga and one in central Johannesburg, who belong to the group that hit Boksburg and the change here, all were arrested before the action,” he said.
Give police space to work
National Police Commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, made a request to Members of Parliament for further details not to be provided on the arrests to allow the police officers working on the case some space to make progress.
“My request from the start is that we are not going to share all the information. Within the stabilisation, we have also adopted a takedown approach and as we speak, we are on a night vigil with some of them from yesterday, so there is some information we will not be able to share as we are in execution. But we will try to do as much as we can,” he said.
Making a presentation to the Committee, Lieutenant-General Sehlahle Masemola, the Deputy National Commissioner for Policing, said Limpopo, Gauteng, North West and Mpumalanga were among the provinces that are mostly affected by cash-in-transit heists, while the Eastern Cape has recorded a slight increase.
He said there has been a slight decrease in the cash-in-transit hits in KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape, Northern Cape and the Free State.
The spike in the robberies has, Masemola said, necessitated that the police top brass intervene and implement a stabilisation plan. The plan comprises of intelligence gathering, analysis and coordination; proactive and preventative approach; combating and rapid reaction approach; detection as well as communication and liaison.
Update on CIT heists
Giving an update on the cash-in-transit cases that police have handled, Masemola said between 1 April 2018 and 31 May 2018, a total of 63 suspects were arrested across Gauteng (19), North West (21), Limpopo (18) and Mpumalanga (02).
Out of these, 19 were linked to existing cash-in-transit cases.
He said while 32 remained in custody, 17 were out on bail while 14 were released on a warning and still appearing before the courts. No convictions had been obtained in the two months period.
He also said the figures have since changed drastically after 31 May.
Masemola said, meanwhile, that as part of the its communication plan, the police were facilitating continuous engagement with stakeholders, who were part of the Parliamentary briefing, including Business Against Crime SA, the SA Banking Risk Information Centre, Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority, SA Petroleum Industry Association and the Consumer Goods Council of SA.
He also said that police were also gathering a lot of proactive intelligence and that the information was assisting in the efforts to arrest the spike.
Reserve bank favours the use of currency protection devices
Francois Groepe, the Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank, said the central bank was concerned with the associated loss of life as well as the destruction of equipment during the robberies.
He said from a policy perspective, from a central bank perspective, there was a concern that if these attacks continue, they will have an impact in terms of the cost of logistics, which will in turn, have an impact on the value chain of cash distribution.
“Some of the impact, for example, on high insurance charges, the replacement costs of these vehicles, and that in itself we must assume will have a knock-on effect on the public in that bank charges increases, and the charge that the CIT companies will have to charge to the banks and retailers will increase, and that then in the longer term may have implications from shifting from cash to alternative means of payments – whether it is debit or credit cards,” he said.
Groepe made a recommendation to the Committee that research be expanded to look at devices and technology that would render banknotes obtained during robberies unusable.
“The research should be expanded to include, for example, CIT currency protection devices to be deployed. And it goes beyond currency protection devices. We also should look at industry practices because the reality of it is that there are devices for the boxes that are utilised in CIT vehicles but often these devices are of poor quality.
“What we need to do is to totally remove the incentive for the criminals, in other words, even if you have a successful CIT attack, and you get away with the boxes, you can’t do anything with the money.
“And that is why whenever we have seen significant development in the devices, for example, deployed in ATMs … we have seen a decline because it removes an incentive for the criminal elements. There is no price at the end of a successful criminal attack so that is of critical importance.”