With 57 armed robberies against business on an ordinary day, the stage is set for a festive season cash crime spike that South African retailers and business owners should be prepared for.  

According to Richard Phillips, joint CEO of Cash Connect, cash attracts crime and as consumers spend more cash on their festive season shopping, South Africans should best be prepared for a significant increase in criminal activity.

“Business owners must expect a rise in armed robberies, cash in transit heists, burglaries and bombings of cash devices at this time,” he says. “Criminals have their own festive season wish list and are ruthless in getting what they’re after.”

Traditionally, there is an almost 40% increase in the volume of cash held on retail sites during December, compared to the average cash volumes during other months of the year. Criminals know this and are sure to act on it.

“Extended trading hours create greater opportunity for crime spikes,” says Phillips. Holiday makers, fuel retailers and convenience store owners are most exposed, while the hardest hit areas are retail hubs and coastal towns.

There are many steps retailers can take to safeguard their cash, their staff and their customers. The most important and effective way to do so is by installing an automated retail cash management and payment solution and outsourcing your cash management and payments requirements to professionals. And make sure to use suppliers who make use of cash vaults that are robust enough to resist the toughest of attacks.

Businesses that have not yet invested in automation, should take the following precautions as recommended by security advisors:

  • Make use of electronic transfers to pay salaries and wages.
  • Do not make it known when cash will be taken to the bank for deposit.
  • Alternate the days and times on which you deposit cash, as well as the branch or ATM you use. This makes your banking pattern difficult to spot.
  • Do not openly display the money you are depositing, or carry it in money bags or briefcases, when you approach an ATM or stand in a bank queue.
  • Do not drive to the bank in your company branded vehicle on a typical pay day and if you must be aware of your surroundings and alternate routes as and when necessary.

But even an automated cash management solution needs vigilance and intelligent management practices to deter criminals. These include:

  • Prevent cash from becoming a target by regularly depositing takings into the cash deposit device and keeping cash at points-of-sale to a minimum.
  • Keep in mind that robbers carefully survey their targets before an attack. Therefore be on the lookout for suspicious vehicles and people lurking in the area.
  • Urge staff to spread the word that your cash is secured and not generally available. It won’t take long for would be criminals to realise that your store is a hard target.
  • Encourage your staff to report suspicious enquiries to you immediately. They should be particularly wary of anyone wanting to know about banking habits, CIT providers or CIT collection times.
  • Closing shop for a few minutes before and during cash-in-transit collections is a tried and tested ‘best practice’. Alternatively isolate and close down the area during the collections and ensure that the room where the cash exchange or handover is being made has access restrictions. ‘Out of sight is out of mind’ is a valuable adage.
  • Assist the cash-in-transit collection team by being prepared. This keeps the collection service time window short, sharp and safe.

“We know that we are in for a tough time this year,” says Phillips. Cash crime season in South Africa has historically been the April and December holiday periods.

“The fact that attacks against cash have increased dramatically this year is an indication of what we can expect over the next few months. Retailers will do well to prepare themselves in order to reduce their risk of becoming victims,” says Phillips.