Michael Appel and Abram Mashego
Police say Saturday’s foiled attack on Protea Coin’s depot in Robertsville, west of Johannesburg, is a major boost against crime ahead of the festive season.
And, they say, the joint operation was also an important boost for morale within the police.
Seven robbers were killed and nine others were injured during the brazen attack when a special task force confronted them at the depot. The police reported no injuries to any of their members.
“Three of the injured suspects have already been released from hospital into police custody,” said Hawks spokesperson Capt Paul Ramaloko.
The remaining six suspects remain under heavy guard in hospital.
“The police are still checking to see whether the 11 vehicles used by the gang can be linked to other crimes. One AK-47 machine gun and three pistols were recovered at the scene and ballistic tests are being done to see if they have been used in other crimes.
“We are also in the process of fingerprinting and profiling each of the gang members for links to other cases,” Ramaloko said.
Ramaloko could not confirm if those killed or arrested were among the seven of the country’s most wanted cash-in-transit robbers, nor if the gang had tried to rob other businesses in the area before targeting the depot.
“This sends a clear message ahead of the festive season that we will deal with any villains who try to make this country unsafe,” Ramaloko said.
Kalyani Pilly, CEO of the South African Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric), told The New Age that while cash-in-transit robberies were down significantly from previous years, the festive season was always a high-risk time.
“There have been a number of prominent arrests of cash-in-transit robbers made in the past through joint initiatives of the SAPS, cash-in-transit companies and Sabric, and we have seen successes. With regard to Saturday’s joint operation, the SAPS and cash-in-transit companies need to be commended,” said Pillay.
The foiled attack on the depot was a combination of the police and cash-in-transit companies gathering intelligence on the ground. While attacks on depots are less common, Pillay said it was not the first time a depot had been targeted.
According to SAPS crime statistics, incidents of cash-in-transit heists rose from 192 reported cases in 2003-4, to 467 cases in 2006-7, and then to 291 cases in 2010-11. The figure dropped in 2011-12 to 182 reported cases. The most occur in Gauteng, followed by KwaZulu-Natal.