Take the money and run

One would think that with all kinds of e-wallets and other electronic payment methods and devices, cash in transit would have already gone the way of the dinosaurs. But one would be wrong: cash is still the preferred method of payment all over the world.

According to a EuroBarometer survey, 49 percent of Europeans prefer cash to other forms of payment. Over 50 percent of all payments in the world are made with notes and coins. Cash and other valuables, such as gold and jewelry, are still traveling on the roads in every country, every day. But where there is cash, there is always the risk of robbery.

In the UK, there were 836 cash-in-transit robberies in 2005, which was ten percent more than in 2004, and the level of violence used in attacks continues to grow. One hundred and seventy couriers were injured in 2005. 

In Sweden, there has been a steady stream of robberies over the past few years. Most of them have happened when vans were being loaded, but there have also been cases where robbers have caught up with vans at stop lights and used heavy explosives to blow open the cash boxes – or, as in one instance, the entire car. All of this has happened in just a few minutes. 

Obstacles help
How much the robbers have managed to get is anybody’s guess. Security companies and banks aren’t exactly advertising their losses. 

Yet security companies are taking extra measures to both prevent the attempts – and ensure that the robbers won’t get rich: First, there are the armored vans. Second, when the cashboxes are opened with force, special ink stains the notes red, rendering them useless. One system uses plastic tubes to safely inject bags of cash with ink at very high speeds so that no matter how quickly the container is opened, the ink stays in the bags with the money. 

Making cash boxes harder to open is another solution. For example, electromagnetic locks can be connected to a data network in a van that includes a GPS system. The cash boxes are locked onto a rack and only released once the destination has been reached. If the armored car deviates from its planned route, robbers will have a hard time cutting the boxes loose.

Installing a biometric fingerprint reader on safety boxes is another solution. In one South African system, retailers are supplied with an electronic device that counts and verifies all cash deposits as they are made into a special steel safety box. The box has a built-in biometric fingerprint reader for validating the cash entries and controlling the opening and closing of the safe. 

Hard to stop
These days, even mobile video surveillance has DVD quality; records in real time; and relays audio and video via GPRS or 3G networks. It may not prevent a robbery, but it helps find the criminals.   Still, no matter how solid armored vans are, or how advanced the lock systems and video surveillance are, if there are considerable amounts of cash in traffic, there will always be attempted robberies. 

“The temptation is there as long as the cash keeps rolling on the roads,” says President of the Swedish Transport Workers’ Union, Per Winberg. 

“I think the situation is actually getting better. We have new alarm systems, and we use the cash boxes with the red ink. The loading is better and our customers have improved the way they handle the cash as well,” he says. 

Yet, clearly, more needs to be done. Secret and irregular schedules and routes, proper training for personnel, increasingly secure cash boxes, and better video surveillance are among the many solutions. Ultimately, the situation requires a combination of all of these efforts – and more. 

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