With the festive season fast approaching, the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (SABRIC) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) have warned bank customers to be wary of their surroundings when going to and from the bank to deposit or to withdraw cash.
SAPS on Monday said despite continuing public awareness, it has recently reported incidents of robberies perpetrated against people carrying cash to and from the banks.
According to these reports, the perpetrators, who operate in a syndicated manner, identify their victims long before the attack.
These syndicates designate ‘spotters’ that look out for people making large cash withdrawals inside bank branches. Once the spotter identifies the victim, they pass on the information to other members of their syndicate, who are usually in the vicinity of the bank. They, in turn, rob the individual. This usually happens at the victim’s place of business, home or en route to wherever they were going.
While SABRIC statistics indicate a 7.4% decrease in these types of robberies for the period of January to September 2013 – with 1 003 incidents compared to 1 083 in the same period in 2012 – SABRIC CEO Kalyani Pillay said these numbers still remained too high.
Speaking at the launch of the Carrying Cash Safely campaign, Pillay said most of the reported cases happen after the cash withdraws.
Gauteng reported the highest number of incidents, with 504 cases from January to September this year alone. This was followed by the Western Cape with 162 and KwaZulu-Natal with 129.
Pillay said while the numbers were declining and cash robberies of this nature did not directly affect the banks, the industry still saw the importance of empowering the public with knowledge, especially given the opportunistic nature of this crime trend. The fact that cash robberies are contact crimes was a further cause for concern.
“The violence and tragic consequences stemming from these attacks are indicative of how serious the problem of such robberies have become. It is with this in mind that we are appealing to bank customers to refrain from carrying large sums of cash in order to lessen their exposure to the risk of these attacks,” said Pillay.
Anyone who carries cash to and from bank can be affected. This includes individuals, small businesses and saving clubs.
In this light, Pillay warned bank customers to be mindful of the risks associated with carrying cash and advised them to consider alternative methods of banking, such as the internet or ATM transfers.
She advised bank clients to not to display money while waiting in the queue; not to wait for month end or the first of the month to do transactions, and to avoid peak times.
“Sticking to a routine of depositing cash at a particular time and day of the week at the same bank branch, or carrying money bags and briefcases increases the risk of being robbed,” she warned.
Pillay said the industry was working closely with the SAPS in dealing with this type of crime.
National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega said they would continue to work with SABRIC to reduce cash robberies, and to ensure the effective investigation of these cases.
Phiyega commended SABRIC, saying it was rendering a great service by educating society about the dangers of carrying large amounts of cash.
She said the partnership with SABRIC has over the years contributed to the decrease in the number of bank robberies.
She highlighted that cash-in-transit heists have decreased by 20% over the past year, while bank robberies decreased by 80% over the same period.
“We cannot over emphasise the partnership with civil [organisations] and business in crime fighting initiatives, and the impact they have on the work of the police,” Phiyega said.
Also speaking at the launch, Crime Line’s Yusuf Abramjee said associated bank robberies were getting more sophisticated.
He said criminals were now cloning cards to gain access to clients’ details.
“Criminals are becoming sophisticated. They no longer hold people at gun point … they create technologies to make crimes easier.”
Abramjee called on the public to blow the whistle on criminal activities.
The public is encouraged to report suspicious activities to their local police stations or anonymously through the Crime Line tip off number: 32211. – SAnews.gov.za
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