Cash-in-transit heist syndicates operate like well-oiled machines.
According to Fidelity CEO Wahl Bartmann, video clips of heists show how organised – and almost professional – they are.
“If you look at the videos in the media, the people are well trained, and they are equipped. They don’t even take one truck. They start taking two trucks in a metropolitan area. The way they handle themselves, they are professionals.”
He said the robbers have “dedicated people doing certain things at a time”.
“They have people who deal with the explosives. They [have] people who are shooting, and they have people who are specialised in driving.”
“Where do they get the get the explosives and how do we control that?”
“We have seen the influx of AK47s back in the country. So, a lot of that definitely impacts on our staff and on the morale of our people.”
Bartmann was speaking after several recent incidents in South Africa.
In Limpopo on Monday, May 21, a group of more than 10 robbers struck a Fidelity van, bombing the vehicle and shooting at the crew sitting in the back. One crew member was wounded.
The group made off with an undisclosed amount of money. No arrests were made.
In a separate incident the previous day, police launched a manhunt for about eight suspects following a cash-in-transit heist at Southdale Mall, just outside the Johannesburg CBD.
It was believed that the driver was approached by about eight armed suspects who pointed firearms at him and forced him to open the van.
The suspects made off with an undisclosed amount of money. No arrests have been made.
In Boksburg on May 17, two G4S vans were blown up during a heist. Five men were arrested, while others escaped.
“What is concerning is it normally happened in remote areas, but that has changed now. It is lucrative and because people are getting away with it, it is on the increase,” Bartmann explained.
During a police briefing on its quarterly performance on May 16, national Crime Intelligence head Peter Jacobs said the latest spate of the crimes involved the use of explosives to blow up vans.
Jacobs described this as a “particular phenomenon” which was different to previous cash-in-transits.
He said over two or three weeks, explosives which was going to be used in heists had been seized.
Investigators were trying to understand the “attack methodology” used and what gangs needed to carry out robberies.
Jacobs added that officers were therefore beginning to target their supply lines of these items.
“We’re beginning to starve them of this,” he said, adding that the effect of this would not be immediately seen.
The vans that are now being used to transport cash have a “cabin” on top. Robbers therefore only need to separate the cabin from the van to get the cash.
He said that those in the cash-in-transit industry seemed to have “gone cheaper” and that this could be exacerbating the problem.
But Bartmann said Fidelity was doing everything in its power to curb the surge in cash-in-transit heists in South Africa.
The company has deployed additional resources in its attempt to clamp down on robberies. These include helicopters.
“The security officers are all provided with bullet proof vests, semi-automatic rifles and we do training with them,” he added.
In addition, a full background check was done when recruiting employees, which included polygraph tests and other tests before and during employment.
“We do lifestyle audits, we do criminal vetting and everything that is necessary. We try and make sure that the people we employ are honest and we can rely on them.”
“Our recruitment qualifications are very high.”
However, he pointed out that the main objective was to work more closely with the South African Police and to get them to support them more.
Spokesperson for G4S Wendy Hardy added that the safety of their staff was paramount.
“We are at the forefront of innovative and ever-changing technologies that protect our drivers and make it harder and more dangerous for criminals who try to target our vehicles.
“We are evolving and rolling out new security features all the time, so criminals can never know what they are up against,” Hardy said.
Hardy added that they also believed in the impact of sharing intelligence and collaborating with other cash-in-transit operators and law enforcement agencies.
They also continued to contribute to industry forums which aim to improve the environment in which they operate.