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'Cash heists becoming a totally new beast'

The messy crime scene on Atlas road in Boksburg where cash vans were bombed on Thursday morning.
The messy crime scene on Atlas road in Boksburg where cash vans were bombed on Thursday morning.

The author of the book "Heist" Anneliese Burgess says the latest spate of cash-in-transit heists are a new beast using new tactics.

Burgess said videos which circulated on social media showing the cash-in-transit heist in Boksburg‚ Ekurhuleni showed that the people involved were professionals.

We used to have the classic old type of cash-in-transit heist. This is where you ram a vehicle off the road and you take the money. Now there is a huge development which is the use of explosives.

Over the last six to seven months‚ the thing that is really worrying is the fact that these guys aren’t doing what they used to. They would go and hit a van somewhere on a back road somewhere.

“But it is now so brazen. It is now a completely new form of crime. They are starting to blow up vans on highways in South Africa. They are blowing up vans in a built up town‚ then you are dealing with a completely new beast now‚” said Burgess.

On Thursday‚ 10 men travelling in four vehicles along Atlas road in Boksburg pounced on two cash vans. They exchanged fire with the guards and then used explosives to blow up the two vans. One of the four G4S guards was shot in the leg while another suffered minor head injuries.

But the police responded promptly and gave chase on the ground and using the chopper.

The men were ultimately caught at the George Goch hostel in Johannesburg. The crime scent was such a mess that roads were blocked in Boksburg causing serious traffic congestion.

As the heist took place about 9.30am‚ the explosion and the gunfight was captured by people on their phones.

Observations were made by the public that the 10 men had some form of military training in the way they handled the gunfight with the G4S guards.

But Burgess said during her research conducted for her book‚ there was no evidence showing that the people involved had military training. However‚ there was a lot of evidence which showed police involvement in the crime.

“The cops are very involved in these syndicates. They are recruited into these syndicates and are very involved‚” said Burgess.

She said sudden spike in the number of cash-in-transit heists was not new in the country.

“In 2014‚ there were 180 heists. In 2017‚ there were 378. That is a massive increase‚” she said.

Burgess added that research conducted revealed the criminals involved in such heists found it easy.

“Criminals themselves say it is very low-risk‚ high-value endeavour. They say it is easy‚ lucrative and low risk. The risk of being arrested is very small. The risk of being successfully convicted is even smaller‚” she said.

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