The rise in armed robberies must be directly related to the growing trend of individuals and companies keeping large amounts of cash, especially foreign currency, in their souls or at their workplace, and then talking about it.
The most recent major burglary, which involved a gang of just four men hitting a passing car carrying armed security guards plus $100,000 and 500,000 rand in two crates.
The attack took place in Bulawayo outside Mukuru’s main office, and the thieves seemed ready for the truck’s arrival and ready to deal with the armed guards.
This is not the first cash vehicle to have been bombed, but it was bombed at its most vulnerable moment, when it was parked to unload, and where a ruthless mob, expecting to be there, could easily attack and neutralize the guards. And run away with portable containers, boxes carrying cash.
This means that someone, somewhere, in the organization or its security company was talking and that information got to the robbery gang.
While the police would investigate the possibility of an inside job, i.e. an employee actually planning a robbery and sharing the proceeds, intelligence could easily come from someone talking to friends, quite innocently if very unwise.
This theft will undoubtedly cause the security industry to rethink the type of vehicle upgrade and procedures required. If criminals become more sophisticated, those who need to protect property and money need to follow suit.
But what is most worrisome in many ways, if not in the kind of transportation the thieves got away with this week, are the raids on commercial buildings and homes that always seem to rake in big bucks. Thieves break into, attack and disable the security guards or family members, then they seem to know exactly where to keep and seize the cash, blow up the safe, or even steal the safe.
Since they have the basic knowledge, the raid is very quick, and even if the police are alerted almost immediately and they react very quickly, it is likely that the gang will be gone before the police arrive.
Again, this indicates that more sophisticated gangs not only take luck, but are also looking for targets and want to know where the money is and where that money is stored.
It is known that some companies operate with high levels of cash, and while cash is supposed to be deposited in banks, it becomes clear which companies are not banking. Again, it could be an inside job, or it could be people talking, or it could be a reconnaissance thief who checks out and notices where lockers are kept and the like.
The police make almost constant pleas, in fact after every robbery, for people not to keep cash and other very portable valuables at home and to deposit their bank money frequently.
Then if there is a burglary not steal much. The massive underground cash economy actually creates goals and opportunities, and so police advice makes sense, even if people want to hoard cash.
The other way to deal with theft, in addition to taking away the target or making the attack more difficult by improving security, is to make the risk of imprisonment too high for the robbery gang.
Police have devoted more resources to tracking down robbery and burglary gangs, and a number of these gangs are now in jail, on trial, or awaiting trial. This is critical because if there is a high probability of going to jail, this is the deterrent.
This is, after all, the reason why our murder rate is actually so low because there is almost 100 percent certainty that they will be caught, arrested and then prosecuted with so much evidence available for the court to make a decision.
But there is also a need for the judiciary to maintain a very large sentencing premium when it comes to violence.
There should be a huge gap in the sentences imposed on the non-violent thief or even fraud on the one hand and the violent gang on the other.
In general, crimes against persons, including murder, robbery, rape, attempted murder and assault, should be dealt with more strictly than crimes against property.
With high levels of detection, police devoting more effort to tracking down those who hurt or killing others than those who just steal, and provisions that make it clear that violent people will be kept out of society for some time, we can keep violent crime under control.
We report a growing population, an increasing urban population, and a growing economy. All three traditionally raise crime numbers. More people means there are more targets and more thieves; Increasing urban population means there are more places to hide and more targets. A growing economy means there is more money to steal.
Much of the increase in crime can be expected. This is the same as the increasing number of road accidents. There are more cars on the road and more drivers behind the wheel.
But that’s no reason to shrug our shoulders and live with these increases. We can do something about it. For a start, people can and should be more involved with their colleagues.
We don’t have to take risks and confront violent gangs, but we can witness what they’re doing and make sure the police are reported.
The police are constantly appealing to anyone who can help approach the “nearest police station” and in the police reports we carry we often see that officers from a particular station or CID have been able to influence an arrest after receiving a tip-off, so they come forward.
We can upgrade our personal and family security without much difficulty, and we can withdraw the goal by handling our bank money and not emptying it.