POLICE chalked up another cashin-transit heist bust following a high speed chase through Joburg’s north-eastern suburbs yesterday.
Bystanders had to take cover as police and gang members traded gunfire in Byron Street, in Lombardy East.
“Two victims were shot during the crossfire, one a security officer and the other a female bystander. Both were taken to hospital for medical attention,” police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapo Peters told media at the scene.
Police arrested seven men and seized three R5s, one AK-47, one 9mm pistol and ammunition.
A resident who lives across the road said he had been having lunch with his family when he heard gunshots go off.
“I thought it was fireworks at first. Somebody was having a party down the road, so I assumed the noise came from there,” said another resident, who did not want to be identified.
“It is only when I stepped out that I saw a whole lot of police vehicles surrounding one of the homes in our street and there was gunfire going off.
“I was shocked and couldn’t believe my eyes. Police choppers were also hovering above the home.”
These latest arrests are part of a drive to break the cash-in-transit scourge.
“Cash-in-transit heists were a problem for some time. However, the number of incidents have gone down drastically in the last few months,” said Peters.
“Now I think criminals are coming back to take chances, but the police are ready to deal with any threat from heist criminals.”
Peters said in this latest incident the seven men took an undisclosed amount of cash from an unmarked Toyota Hilux SUV belonging to a private cash-in-transit company based in Sebenza.
Police spotted the gang’s vehicle and gave chase.
“A Mercedes-benz was also recovered in Sebenza and it is believed to have been used in the commission of the robbery this morning.
“The Mercedes-benz has since been confirmed stolen in Pretoria Central,” said Peters.
Four vehicles – a BMW X5 riddled with bullet holes, a BMW sedan, a VW Polo and a Toyota Yaris – were seized.
Crime experts lauded the police’s efforts.
“I think that the police are doing a great job. They are getting their house in order,” said criminologist Dr Mahlogonolo Thobane.
She added that the police had stabilised the crime intelligence department, which was now generating leads that assisted in the arrest of crime syndicates.
Dr Johan Burger, of the Institute for Security Studies, said a multi-disciplinary SAPS task team had also helped in bringing down the gangs.
Tactical units, like the Special Task Team, were being used to tackle the gangs head-on, he said.
But these tactics, believes Burger, made the robbers more brazen and willing to shoot it out with the police.
“They are increasing their own fighting capability. They are prepared to fight it out, and this could be a new trend.”
Last Friday two police officers, including a member of the elite Special Task team, were killed in a 15-minute shootout with a heist gang near Hlabisa, in Kwazulu-natal, where seven robbers were shot dead.
Thobane has interviewed cash-intransit robbers in jail.
“They have told me that they will take on anyone who is between them and the money and most also use muti, which they say makes them invisible or invincible to bullets,” she said.
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