Considered the “most dangerous criminals”, this week’s spike in cash-in-transit (CIT) heists has put these hyper-violent crimes in the spotlight, with security experts providing insight on the inner workings of these syndicates.
This after three high-stake CIT heists took place in the province this week, with the aftermath of these crime scenes resembling an action movie, with burned cash vans, injured security guards and ammunition littering the ground.
In one incident, an armoured vehicle crashed into someone’s yard on Tuesday morning in Folweni, south of Durban.
On Friday morning, four suspects were killed in a shootout between SAPS and suspected CIT robbers at a house in KwaMashu.
A 50-year-old man with alleged links to CIT robberies in KZN, was also arrested in the early hours of on Friday.
What is happening in KZN is similar to the situation in Gauteng in 2018, with CIT heists taking place almost every week, sometimes with deadly consequences.
Due to the high number of CIT heists in the past week, Weekend Witness spoke to security specialist Dr Lennie Lochner, who did his PhD thesis on CIT robberies, to find out what the reasons for the increase could be.
CIT robbers are the most dangerous criminals in South Africa. They do not hesitate to take lives. They see the money that is being transported in the cash vans as their money. What distinguishes them from other criminals is that they do meticulous planning.
“They plan between three and fourteen months to execute. They plan, plan and rehearse. It will never be the same group that robs twice, the group will always differ, I think that is where the SAPS misses the ball.
“If you do not understand how the group is formed, then you will never catch these CIT robbers.”
Lochner added that brave people are needed to pull off these crimes.
Lizette Lancaster, manager of Crime and Justice Information Hub’s justice and violence prevention programme at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria, said the national CIT heist statistics are alarming.
“The police recorded 60 CITs for the period April to June 2023, which is the same as for the same three months in 2022. The SAPS recorded 237 CITs for the period April 2022 to March 2023.
“This is one lower than the 238 recorded in 2021/22 annual stats (for period April 21 to March 22), possibly indicating some stabilisation.
“While this is nearly double the lowest recorded CIT incidents for a similar period in 2014/15 of 119 CITs, we are not back to the levels we experienced in 2005/2006 to 2009/10 when between 358 and 467 incidents were recorded per year (peaking in 2006/2007 with the 467 recorded incidents),” she said.
She added that combatting CIT crimes will always be difficult.
“Through partnerships and targeted hardening efforts, the number of cases has been reduced in the past, but the criminal syndicates have grown in sophistication.
“The police have many competing crime priorities to deal with, which means resources are spread thinly. They can have a meaningful impact if they can use the information they gather when they do apprehend CIT robbers to build strong prosecutable cases and use the linkages, they investigate to permanently interrupt these groups,” said Lancaster.
CIT robberies are quite specialised and perpetrated by relatively few groups. Apprehending the masterminds and interrupting the groups will bring the numbers down significantly.
SAPS spokesperson, Brigadier Jay Naicker, said the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) will investigate Friday’s shooting incident.
Commenting on Friday’s shootout, Naicker said SAPS and law enforcement were led to a house in KwaMashu.
“When police announced their presence, the suspects started firing gunshots at the police, leaving the men of law with no other alternative but to return fire and a shootout ensued.
“Four suspects sustained fatal gunshot wounds during the shoot- out. The suspects, two of whom are from Limpopo province, were found in possession of four firearms, an AK47 assault rifle, an R5 rifle and two pistols as well as numerous rounds of ammunition,” he said.
KZN SAPS spokesperson Colonel Robert Netshuinda confirmed a man was arrested in the early hours of yesterday morning with ties to CIT crimes.
“An intelligence-driven operation by officers from the eThekwini trio tracking team, working together with provincial crime intelligence officers has produced favourable results when a 50-year-old man was arrested in connection with his suspected involvement in cash-in-transit robberies,” he said