Editorial: Cele, prioritise cash heists

Cash-in-transit heists seem to be a South African speciality. They are now happening at an average of one a day, according to some accounts, and there could be as many as 10 in a day, presumably a very good day for the gangsters. There were 378 in the course of last year, the highest tally since 2007.

All this means that the everyday dangers faced by South Africans are still rising. The widespread occurrence of cash-in-transit heists, and the violence employed in the crime and in the police’s attempts to stop them, means an increasing likelihood of people getting caught in the crossfire. Crimes such as robberies in shopping centres are now also part of our daily dangers.

This week we’ve heard of how highly trained gangs are often involved in multiple heists. That there’s a hierarchy in the organisational structure of these heist outfits who target cash-in-transit vans as “soft targets”. That these structures sometimes involve police officers, security guards, former defence force soldiers or liberation fighters. And that the loot from these heists is soon blown by the thieves, prompting them to return to the fray.

This indicates that a well-organised police crime intelligence division would have more opportunities to collect relevant information, and could find multiple entry points into this underworld and those operating from its shadows.

It is heartening, therefore, that Police Minister Bheki Cele has committed to a clean-out and an upgrade of crime intelligence. The Zuma government was all too willing to allow this state body, along with spy and security bodies, to more or less run riot — as long as they were loyal and fed him reports he liked. Cele must certainly give those Augean stables a thorough wash, and then perhaps crime intelligence can get on to the violent heists endangering citizens’ lives.

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