Crime continues to evolve in South Africa each and every day. Its consequences reach all aspects of life, from crippling our economy to jeopardising a high standard of living. South Africans have had to put safety measures in place to ensure their own security, such as home alarm systems, electric fences and surveillance cameras. But what happens when our security is compromised on the roads? During our daily commute or on the occasion of business or leisure travel, we take to the streets unprotected and vulnerable.
It goes without saying that the roads and highways pose a threat to safety. Organised crime only adds to the potential dangers. Hijacking and theft are common, but another type of violent and organised crime is a persisting issue in our country. Cash-in-transit vans are currently extremely high-risk targets for robbery.
The Recent Cash-Heist Spike
What are cash-heists? An organised group of criminals plan and execute a robbery of a cash-in-transit van. These criminals use explosive devices to gain access to its contents and are often armed to intimidate and control the drivers. These crimes can result in shoot-outs between the robbers and the police. There have already been many injuries and fatalities surrounding these crimes. This has become an epidemic that negatively affects the economy, and the safety of everyday South Africans.
Why Is This Crime Increasing?
The cash-heists are not a simple case of opportunistic crime. They are well-planned operations organised by crime syndicates and are increasing due to easy access to explosive devices. This illegal supply of explosives, coupled with corruption in areas surrounding the police department is the source of the spike. The meticulous planning often includes a “finger-man” or someone on the inside, that knows the details of truck routes and proceedings. They can tell the group exactly when and where the van will be, and how much money the van will hold. The crime is seen as lucrative, with low risk and a high reward.
The Dangers Involved
What are the risks to you as a resident or traveller in South Africa? These crimes happen on the major roads and highways, sometimes even in broad daylight. The risks of getting caught in the middle are too significant to ignore. The explosions themselves send flying debris, a blast strong enough to rip through the thick metal of the vehicles. Shootouts pose a distinct threat because of the gunshots that get fired. Just recently at a cash-heist in Pretoria on the 28th of July, a security guard was shot and wounded. If you are nearby a shootout when it happens, stray bullets are potentially life-threatening.
Further still, the increase in cash heists has caused a nation-wide strike by cash-in-transit security officers. The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) have warned that this strike could cause an economic crisis. But despite the implications, they claim that the cash-in-transit heists have become a pandemic, increasing by 105% in just 3 years. Strikes also pose a greater threat to public safety – for more on this topic click here.
What Can You Do To Stay Safe?
While you can’t avoid travelling entirely, there are some things you can do on your commute to ensure your own safety:
Check your route before driving to ensure no blockages
Listen to the news on the radio, television, or subscribe to breaking news online to be the first to hear about a cash-heist in your area
Avoid areas entirely if there is any criminal activity
Look out for warning signs on your route such as sounds of gunshots, people running, vehicles stopped in the middle of the road, etc.
If you do find yourself near a situation, look for a way out immediately
Remain calm, and don’t be concerned about your possessions – damage to your property is far less important than your life
Don’t stop to look or get out of your car, keep moving – windows and doors do not offer protection against gunfire
Don’t attempt to be a hero and stop the proceedings in any way, instead get out of the way immediately and call for help
In the case of business executives and VIP’s, you may feel ensuring your own safety isn’t a viable option. When your responsibilities to your work are compromised because of security concerns, you might consider executive protection. Putting your safety in the hands of trained professionals will provide uncompromised safety, and give you peace of mind.
Want to learn more about additional methods of ensuring your safety on the roads with the use of executive protection? Read our article on the benefits of secure travel.