Tue, 04 Aug 2020

Robberies at South African banks have been declining for years from the highs of the mid-90s when hundreds of robberies were recorded. For the first time ever, no bank robberies were recorded in the 12 months to March 2020. Economist Mike Schussler says banks have improved their security a lot over the years, making it extremely difficult to steal from them.

Robberies at South African banks have fallen to zero for the 12 months to March.

"During the period under review, there were no bank robberies in South Africa," said Police Minister Bheki Cele at the annual release of the country's crime statistics on Friday.

According to the definition used by police, the term 'bank robbery' refers to incidents in which banks are "robbed of cash or other valuables in their custody during the normal business hours of such banks".

If only clients are robbed inside a bank, this does not constitute bank robbery.

Robberies at South African banks have been declining for years. In 2018/19 there were only four robberies.

A decade ago, in the 2009/2010 financial year, 93 bank robberies took place.

Bank robberies reached their high point in the mid-90s when hundreds of robberies took place every year.

According to the ISS, bank robberies reached their peak in 1996/97, when 561 were recorded.

Economist Mike Schussler said banks have improved their security a lot over the years, making it extremely difficult to steal from them.

"It's a good thing, good news. But I think it's more the measures that the banks have put in place. Any bank I go to these days has very good security. Also, today, banks handle less cash. More people do electronic transfers than before."

Schussler said while there is still cash in the economy, banks process less now as many people make withdrawals at retailers, and there is less for these retailers to take to the banks.

Another contributing factor was likely to be reduced footfall to the banks during the hard lockdown in April, which Schussler says might have contributed to the slight drop in cash-in-transit robberies.

However, Schussler said statistics on digital banking crimes would provide a better picture on whether criminals were indeed less active.

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