The sloppiness of a cash-in-transit security crew in Bulawayo yesterday resulted in armed robbers getting away with seven trunks full of cash which was due for banking.
It could not be ascertained how much was taken in the heist as police were still investigating.
A gang of armed robbers allegedly trailed a Romicon Security cash-in-transit vehicle as it made cash collections from six Choppies Supermarket shops around the city and pounced on it as it made its seventh collection at the retail shop located at Parklands Shopping Complex.
The city has been recording a spike in armed robbery cases and one of them turned fatal last Saturday. Yesterday’s robbery occurred at about 11AM and the armed robbers arrived at the shopping complex in four Honda Fit vehicles.
They fired warning shots and threatened to shoot anyone who resisted the raid.
The armed robbers disarmed Romicon Security guards before removing six trunks which were in a ‘kombi’ labelled “armoured cash-in-transit vehicle”.
The robbers grabbed the seventh trunk from a security guard who was carrying it to the cash-in-transit truck at the Parklands Choppies Supermarket.
When a Chronicle news crew arrived at the scene at about 12PM, the complex was swarming with police units who were conducting investigations.
A security guard sat on the ground and appeared visibly shaken.
Witnesses said two teams of the armed gang entered the complex while the other two remained outside the premises.
They attacked a security guard manning the boom gate enabling the crew to use both the entrance and exit to make good their escape after the raid. The witnesses said the robbery was swift and seamless, giving rise to speculation that it was committed by professionals.
Police, on the other hand, said they suspected it was an inside job.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said there seems to be slackness by cash-in-transit security companies in the handling of money.
He said there was no need for Romicon Security company to move from shop to shop with collected funds as standard procedure requires that after making every collection it is deposited into the bank.
“With regards to robbery involving Choppies Supermarket it is alleged that a contracted security company collected about six trunks from the Central Business District branches before proceeding to Parklands Choppies Supermarket. In the process of collecting the seventh trunk, four Honda Fit vehicles with robbers approached and they fired some shots and robbed them of the seven trunks,” he said.
“We are concerned, it appears there is leaking of information, the movement of these security guards had already been compromised. The security company was collecting money from branches that are near the banks where they could have easily deposited this money before proceeding to the next outlet.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said police have resorted to engaging security companies and other business entities that have become a target for robberies.
He said security companies involved in transporting cash should not make their routes routine as this compromises their security.
“It is incumbent upon these security companies to implement measures that are very water tight. They also need to vet their employees and make sure that information on movement of cash is not passed from each and every employee. As police, we can do investigations, awareness campaigns but we want the hired security companies to work and do more,” he said.
“Cash movements should not be publicised, cash movements should not be something which is routine where at the end of the day the movement of security companies, the banking, movements from supermarkets are compromised. They must continue to review security measures in consultation with the police. Unlike this situation where police have to come when crime has been committed. We want them to constantly work with the police so that we can nip these cash-in-transit robberies once and for all.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said police reactions to armed robberies will be informed by the situation on the ground and they will not have a one size fits all approach.
Parklands Choppies Supermarket manager, identified only as Mr Rungano, could not disclose the amount that was stolen from his shop.
He said one of the suspected robbers was captured on the company’s closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage.
“It’s so confusing, I don’t know where to start but it happened so fast. They attacked these security guys who were here to collect our daily banking money. So, when we heard gunshots. We all escaped and returned when it was safe. I think I heard about three shots. But when we were now checking on CCTV camera footage, we observed that one of the suspects could have been in the shop pretending to be a customer and became part of the raid,” said Mr Rungano.
He said no one was injured but the incident left most of the employees traumatised.
Members of the public said they just heard a female guard from Romicon Security crying for help as the getaway cars made their escape.
“I was coming to the complex, then I just saw two speeding vehicles driving out. One of the cars used the exit gate while I nearly crashed on the other one which used the entrance. As I was still surprised at what was happening, I realised that the guys in the car had a gun.
As I was still trying to comprehend what was happening, I saw a female security guard raising her hands calling for help. When I inquired, that’s when we heard that the security guards had been raided by the armed robbers who took away the cash.
This is just worrying, anything could have happened to me. I could have been shot if I was involved in road rage incident realising that the other vehicle had encroached onto my lane,” said a resident who declined to be named.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Judith Ncube has called on members of the public to work closely with the police in dealing with the spike in armed robbery cases.