Concern about spike in courier van robberies, car and truck hijackings up in Gauteng

05 March 2021 - 06:00
By iavan pijoos AND Iavan Pijoos

On February 26 2021 at 11am, an armed robbery occurred outside MTN's headquarters in Johannesburg. Mthokozisi Ndlovu, MTN's communications and public relations manager, said this was their first major incident this year.

Car and truck hijackings as well as cash-in-transit heists have increased across Gauteng.

Releasing crime statistics for the third quarter of 2020/2021, provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Elias Mawela said on Thursday that car hijackings had gone up by 5.9% while truck hijackings increased by 31.8%.

Courier van robberies were included under car hijacking figures.

“Our analysis reveals that most of carjackings occurred during the night, including the so-called blue-light hijackings, where robbers are said to impersonate law enforcement officers,” Mawela said.

He said cash-in-transit robberies had increased by 106.7%. In 13 of the cash heist incidents reported, suspects used explosives and bombed the vehicles to access the money, he said.

In recent weeks the spotlight has been on courier van robberies.

On Wednesday morning, a security guard and an alleged hijacker were shot dead when police confronted a gang that had targeted a truck carrying cellphones with an estimated value of R60m.

The incident, which took place in Kelvin, Johannesburg, resulted in 19 people being arrested and 10 illegal firearms, four stolen or hijacked cars and a jamming device being recovered, police spokesperson Brig Mathapelo Peters said.

She said 14 suspects, including two women, were arrested on the spot, while an unconfirmed number of suspects escaped by jumping the walls.

In Strubens Valley on Tuesday, Fidelity Specialised Services Unit (SIU) and other security companies successfully brought down four suspects linked to four courier robberies in recent week.

“This was a clean operation with no shots fired and no injuries reported. We commend our team and all involved on their outstanding work in tracing these criminals for a successful operation,” Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann said.

The generally high level of crime increases the cost of doing business, which is not good for us, our customers or the economy.
Andre Wagner, DSV 

Last week on Friday, a group of heavily armed suspects attacked a DSV courier van outside MTN’s headquarters in Johannesburg. Three DSV guards were wounded when the gang opened fire on the escort car.

The gang fled with boxes of handsets. Police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo said cases of armed robbery and attempted murder were opened. No arrests were made.

DSV MD Andre Wagner said the attacks on courier companies are a “cause of great concern” for those in the courier and transport industries.

“Most alarmingly, the criminality places our people at risk when they are doing no more than going about their business.

“It is clearly not acceptable and we, like others in the industry, do all we can, and work with the police and other stakeholders, to ensure the safety of our employees. Regrettably, as last week’s incident demonstrates, it is not possible to do so all the time.

“The generally high level of crime increases the cost of doing business, which is not good for us, our customers or the economy,” Wagner said.

Crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said gangs were targeting value items such as cellphones and other expensive goods. Abramjee said on average in the past few months there had been at least one attack every day.

“These gangs are becoming more brazen. We are dealing here with organised crime gangs and, while some arrests have been made, more and more gangs are springing up because they are looking at these courier vans as easy targets.

“I am calling on the industry to take urgent and decisive action, and to unite to stop this surge. The time has come for police to beef up their intelligence and break the backbone of these syndicates.”

Lizette Lancaster, Crime Hub manager at the Institute for Security Studies, said the courier vans had been an easy target throughout the lockdown.

As with all robberies, you are talking about a relatively few robbers who work loosely in groups or syndicates and they are repeat offenders.
Lizette Lancaster, ISS

“We have heard more and more of these types of incidents during lockdown because they could move quite freely and people could order online.

“You saw an increase in online shopping, so these vehicles then became a popular target for criminals. These are robberies that yield great results because they carry high-value items, from food right through to appliances and medicines.”

Lancaster said Gauteng was hit the hardest.

To curb the surge in courier van robberies, more targeted policing and crime intelligence were needed, Lancaster said.

“As with all robberies, you are talking about a relatively few robbers who work loosely in groups or syndicates and they are repeat offenders, so if you can remove some of them off the streets, you can see a substantive decrease in this type of crime category.

“It is important that intelligence is shared between police, businesses and other security companies because you will start to see the modus operandi evolving. You can analyse the modus operandi, check days and times, routes that are particular hotspots and then you can start addressing it.”