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Times Live (File photo)
As police scramble to figure out how yet another multi-million rand heist took place at OR Tambo International Airport‚ some are pointing to the failure of crime intelligence structures to feed through information in time to act on the robbers.
“This heist was carefully planned and well orchestrated. You ask yourself how the syndicates are able to operate without crime intelligence picking up anything‚” said Mpho Kwinika‚ president of the South African Police Union (SAPU).
Tuesday’s night heist at the airport‚ where a reported $15-million was stolen in foreign currency‚ with the robbers leaving behind other valuables‚ was not the first time the airport had been hit in recent years.
Initial reports indicate that the robbers identified themselves as police officers‚ which has been a common modus operandi with robberies at the airport in recent times.
“If crime intelligence was working‚ they would be able to identify these groups‚ infiltrate them‚ and then take them down. But it seems not a single agent was aware of these activities‚” Kwinika said.
“You find that these guys are doing dry runs‚ they know where the entrances and exits are. They are well organised. If they planned this in a week‚ or a month‚ people would’ve been hurt.
“But not a single person was injured and not a single shot was fired. They knew what they were doing‚” Kwinika said.
A source in the cargo section of the airport said there were at least three other robberies at the airport in 2016 where robbers were dressed in police uniform.
The Times reported on one of the biggest heists last year‚ where the robbers targeted electronic goods and got away with more than 1.5 tonnes of cellphones‚ tablets and other goods.
“Accompanying the guys dressed as police were masked men who knew their way about the place and knew exactly what and where the containers were. They even knew how to drive the hysters (forklift freight handlers). Within 30 minutes they had loaded 1.5t of iPhones and laptops worth millions of rands‚” a source said at the time of the robbery last year October.
Kwinika believed criminal syndicates had been given “too much space” to plan and carry out daring heists.
“Not a single shot was fired. They obviously know what they are doing. We are allowing them to plan these heists. They have the space to plan and carry out these things‚” he said.
“If you are doing security properly‚ security should evolve. The truth of the matter is that people can’t be placed for too long at a certain place. They must rotate the people‚ and they must rotate the routines and systems they have in place‚” Kwinika said.
Gareth Newham‚ head of the governance‚ crime and justice division at the Institute for Security Studies‚ said crime intelligence can’t be expected to know about every incident.
“You can’t expect crime intelligence to be everywhere and know about everything that’s happening. But once something like this happens‚ they must use the information that is available and work backwards to try and identify the robbers‚” Newham said.
“They must also activate their agents in the field. Sometimes you will find a group who pulled off something like this talk about it. Or in a few weeks you’ll see these guys drive new cars. Crime intelligence is certainly a crucial component‚ but it is impossible to keep tabs on everything‚” he said.
Newham said‚ however‚ that there had been a decline in productivity within crime intelligence since the controversy started around former head Richard Mdluli.
He said the unit received enough money‚ with skilled people and good technology in place‚ but needed a person with integrity to lead them.Source: Times Live