Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Read more about the analysis of an armed robbery attempt on a cash-in-transit vehicle in South Africa. The following article does not criticize but educates and draws on our long experience in the industry [check out the interview in Business Insider with our Managing Director on this incident].
A cash-in-transit (CIT) heist attempt in Pretoria, South Africa, on April 22, attracted lots of attention from the security community and the media, hitting the headlines around the world. The video of the incident went viral with millions of views [click here to watch the video]. However, the robbery footage shouldn't have been leaked on Social Media in the first place. It is a piece of evidence in the ongoing investigation and can harm those involved in the incident.
An armored vehicle with two security guards escorting the cash van on the highway was ambushed by a group of gunmen. Attackers used two heavily armed cars and tried to take down the escort vehicle to rob the goods in the lead CIT car. Robbers were well-organized, trained, and equipped. They might be former police, military, or security personnel due to their modus operandi and accuracy of the gunshots.
Fortunately, the car with a security detail had an adequate level of ballistic protection [most likely B6 armor rating that can withstand high-power rifles] to sustain the attack and save both passengers [read more about how the market for bulletproof vehicles is skyrocketing]. More importantly, the driver reacted promptly and instinctively, keeping a cool head in a critical moment, and handled the life-threatening situation competently.
All credits to the driver, ex-special forces; however, his teammate and employer cannot be praised since evident mistakes in the operational planning and incident response.
The driver did a great job, demonstrating his defensive driving skills, quick wit, and mental toughness. Anyway, it is an integral part of the job. Every security operative must be able to react accordingly and protect the asset from any threat. A career in the private security industry entails certain risks, and all security professionals are aware of liability and accept it.
Security drivers must undertake tactical driving training equipping them with a competency of handling vehicles in critical situations on the road [ramming techniques, blocking right/left, evasive, anti-ambush and high-speed driving, and hard-reverse turns].
The Security Guard
Unlike the battle-hardened driver, his colleague rooted to the spot in a decisive moment. It can be concluded that the second security guard is not adequately prepared for emergencies; probably, he has done just basic security training. So, the driver's partner should have alerted the ops center straight after the first shot, calling for a backup team. He should have stayed on the line with support to give them first-hand information. Instead, he waited for the instructions from the driver, who had his hands full with dodging bullets, resulting in the loss of crucial time. Luckily, his mistake was not fatal; no one was hurt in the incident.
A contingency plan must include the deployment of emergency response teams (ERT) like a counter-ambush team (CAT) or quick reaction force (QRF), especially for high threat protection and complex environments. The CAT/QRF is responsible for responding to incidents/attacks, supporting security personnel on the ground. A control center should monitor operations and communicate with deployed security operatives constantly, assisting them in an attack/incident.
Violent crime like armed robberies, hijacking, rape, murders, and home invasions is rising in South Africa. According to crime statistics, 46 cash-in-transit heists occurred in Pretoria between April and June 2021 [source: South African Government]. A few days before this incident, another similar heist attempt didn't grab too much attention from the media. However, it should have alerted the security company to tighten security measures and revamp existing emergency procedures. To ensure security controls and protocols commensurate with threats, private security companies must constantly monitor the threat environment and analyze current and future security risks.
Intelligence could have helped avoid the attack in the first place. Criminals haven't randomly attacked the cash van. They knew the route, time, cargo, and vehicle and had conducted offensive surveillance for intelligence gathering to get all the pertinent info and pick the target. The hostile surveillance phase precedes all criminal activities. Some advanced work such as route reconnaissance, anti-surveillance measures, and surveillance detection could have helped recognize and evade unwanted attention and counter a threat before it eventuates.
Rules of Engagement
Rules of engagement (ROE) define when, where, and how the force is used. As for this operation, the only mistake of the driver was [recklessly] leaving the vehicle to engage with the attackers. Security personnel should get out of a car only if it is safe outside or more dangerous to remain inside. The driver should have stayed in the vehicle, waiting for a backup team or driving until he gets out of harm's way. From the footage, it is not clear whether the car was disabled. Anyway, suppose security operatives must escape from a vehicle. In that case, they should do it cautiously and tactically—using the car as a cover, applying vehicle close-quarter battle tactics [fighting in/out/around a vehicle], and teaming up [applying small-team close combat tactics].
Every security professional should be skilled enough to respond to emergencies. Protective specialists should train hard to handle ever-evolving dangers. No training in the world can prepare you for real-life situations. To cope with incidents, you must rely on your intuitive actions based on previous experience and muscle memory, achieved by continual training.
The operational environment has become immensely challenging; threats are unconventional, and threat actors can inflict more harm. Contemporary security strategies should consider all risk domains to manage anticipated/unforeseen risks, including employing unorthodox and novel methods [covert and layered protection, and holistic and cross-sectoral approach].
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