The modus operandi profile of the cash-in-transit robber as an exclusive criminal

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Abstract

The modus operandi profile of the cash-in-transit robber as an exclusive criminal

Media reports and social media show that the South African Police Service does not use modus operandi information when investigating crime. Images of cash-in-transit heists (hereafter: heists, unless otherwise specified) taken by the public on their cell phones and distributed on social media are a source of modus operandi information that should be followed up, recorded and investigated. In this article we examine the type of modus operandi information on cash-in-transit robbers that should be recorded in such a system. The article is based on research for the degree Doctor Litterarum et Philosophia (Lochner 2016) and is the first in a planned series on the unique modus operandi of the South African cash-in-transit robber. Empirical research, as explained by Punch (2014:4) and Maxfield and Babbie (1995:45), was used in this study because there is very little literature on the modus operandi of cash-in-transit robbers. A qualitative approach was applied to facilitate the research process. New information was obtained and compared with existing information which either supported or questioned our findings. Research data was obtained by analysing existing literature in fine detail, and qualitative data was collected through 21 semi-structured interviews with cash-in-transit robbers found guilty of the crime and serving prison sentences. The interviews consisted of open-ended questions to obtain detailed information on their modus operandi for heists. Marshall and Rossman (2011:59) and Flick (2011:89) are of the opinion that qualitative research can include the researcher’s experience. The experience and knowledge of one of the researchers who has received specialised in-service training in investigating heists were also used as a data collection method.

The modus operandi profile characteristics of cash-in-transit robbers as exclusive criminals are identified. In this article, we show that the modus operandi characteristics of an offender can be regarded as their profile. If these are recorded in detail, it could help identify potential and existing cash-in-transit robbers. The modus operandi of the cash-in-transit robber consists of three phases, each with unique characteristics.

Each crime has a modus operandi and each criminal has his own modus operandi when planning and executing a crime, as well as after the crime has been committed. However, there are factors influencing the modus operandi of a criminal that we will not examine in this article. Modus operandi information on the planning of a crime and the robber’s actions after the crime is in most cases not available; only the criminals themselves can reveal this. However, it can be gathered or obtained in different ways, for example by conducting interviews with offenders found guilty of a particular crime. Sentenced offenders have sound information on the modus operandi that they followed in planning and executing the crime, as well as after the crime. The modus operandi information revealed during these interviews should be recorded on a modus operandi system so that it can be used to identify other offenders.

The identification of an offender is the most important objective of the investigation of crime. In investigating crime, modus operandi is used as a technique to identify the perpetrator. The modus operandi of any criminal arises from his or her individualised techniques, behaviour, methods of operation or actions when planning and executing a crime or after a crime has been committed. In most cases, the modus operandi is observed mainly by an investigating officer, witness, complainant or victim at the scene, after which it is documented.

Any modus operandi information, even information that initially seems trivial, should be recorded. Modus operandi information which the layperson may deem unimportant could at a later stage be the only information that a professional investigating officer can use to identify a known or unknown offender. Regardless of the value that the reader of this article may place on modus operandi information, this information will be worth gold in the hands of a knowledgeable, conscientious and thorough investigating officer.

Cash-in-transit robbers can be classified as exclusive robbers who show no respect for life and use extreme violence to achieve their goal. They operate in groups and are recruited to execute specific tasks and responsibilities during the planning and execution of the crime or after the crime. As the crime is being committed, they leave important modus operandi information behind. Heists are planned carefully and executed very quickly, and group members are recruited for their experience, reliability and specific skills. The careful planning of a heist and group members’ meticulous actions when committing the heist make it difficult to identify cash-in-transit robbers.

Because modus operandi information on the planning of a heist and the robbers’ actions after the crime is difficult to obtain, it is recommended that the SAPS investigate the possibility of obtaining modus operandi information from sentenced offenders, particularly exclusive criminals or robbers. Zinn (2007, 2003) and Lochner (2016) recommended some time ago that this method of collecting modus operandi information be done on an ongoing basis and in controlled circumstances.

Keywords: cash-in-transit heist; exclusive robber; heist; investigation of crime; modus operandi, modus operandi profile; offender identification

Lees die volledige artikel in Afrikaans: Die modus operandi-profiel van die kontant-in-transito-rower as eksklusiewe misdadiger

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