Cash in transit in Italy: the effect of defense factors against the threat of crime

Criminals are ready to take advantage of every weak link in the physical flow of cash, with sophisticated attacks to vehicles and guards.

Automatisms, remote controlled accesses, sensors, and perimeter barriers: the protections adopted have moved and limited the danger in the last “pre-pandemic” years. How? The explanation through data collected by Schwegler Associated.

The supply of cash is a constant need in the market. Banks and post offices stopped holding banknotes and coins in their local branches a long time ago. By doing so, they moved the risk of theft to the security transport companies, and they also increased the need for cash supply, which is now on a daily basis. This concerns the whole Italian territory, with banks and postal offices moving money in or out or collecting cash. For some time now, criminals have identified this as a source of possible illicit collection of money. Some gangs have organized themselves with military means, such as the Kalashnikov and sometimes even explosives.

With the advent of the pandemic, the circulation of cash has drastically decreased. Therefore the exposure of the transport of valuables has changed accordingly. To analyze the risks of the sector it is appropriate to consider the data of the pre-Covid period as benchmark.

In 2019, 32 attacks were reported against cash in transit companies, compared to 29 in 2018. 24 attacks were successful with an estimated loss of about 4.5 million euros.

Assault on vans

In 2019, six attacks on armored vans were recorded (while in 2018 there were 15). In four cases the criminals succeeded in their intent, removing about 3.2 million Euros in total.

Pavement risk

There were 26 attacks in 2019 (compared to 13 in 2018) aimed at armed guards / security guards, while handling the values outside the vehicle. 20 attacks were successful, for an estimated loss of around 1.4 million euros.

Cash counting rooms / vault

In 2019 there were no assaults on cash counting rooms.

It is worth pointing out that in 2016 there were 26 attacks on vans against only six in 2019. On the other hand, in 2016 there were 15 ground robberies (pavement risk), against 26 in 2019. We can link this trend to an improvement in the security measures on armored vans: following various unsuccessful attempts, criminals may have decided to attempt more robberies during deliveries, when the guards and valuables are most exposed.

Analysis of the methods and criticalities of criminal activities

In over 30 years dedicated to the cash in transit field, we have noticed a significant evolution in the organization of attacks, both on armored vans and on the cash counting rooms. These last types of attacks are relatively uncommon in Italy, as reported in the previous statistics. Despite the increase in criminal acts, both in terms of danger and means used – such as trucks set on fire to block the highway, bulldozers used to gut vans, three-pointed nails scattered on the asphalt – the CIT crews on armored vehicles was wounded only in rare cases.

The design and execution of the raid, however, can be so complex and disruptive, that criminals can create access and escape routes from the highways, cutting the guardrails and creating “alternative” access ramps.

This led us to thoroughly analyze the “creative” methods of the assaults and, where possible, hinder them considering that, depending on the territory, there are differences in the methods of assault. This includes the analysis of the cash flow in its entirety, both inside and outside the structures of the companies involved in the transport of valuables.

  • In deepening the 2019 data on attacks on the cash in transit, a result emerges, which deserves some reflection. The number of ground robberies (pavement risk) rose to 26 in 2019 (in 2018 it was 13). With a success rate of around 76%. While for armored vans there were six events in 2019 (up from 15 in 2018), with a success rate of approximately 66%. Overall, this allows us to understand that criminal organizations shift their interest towards a phase of transport that has more chances of success.
  • Today, also thanks to the new security measures, an attack on a van used to transport valuables, (usually banknotes) may not be profitable for criminals compared with the investments to carry out a similar criminal action, which includes: aspects of logistics; the theft of vehicles such as excavators and trucks; the possession of weapons as guns, rifles, Kalashnikovs and sometimes explosives, grenades and war rifles such as Fal (Light Automatic Rifle) and M50 in some rare cases.
  • Nonetheless we must also consider the machinery to cut the means, a material not very easy to find. This list is obviously an understatement, but it implies the involvement of a certain number of people (no less than a dozen), so the relative investment is quite substantial especially when the extortion, as we have seen, does not necessarily succeed.

Prevention and contrast measures

Given the sensitive issue, for security reasons we cannot disclose the security details installed (you can contact us directly to know more about the security systems) and successfully used to fight against crimes. Over the years Schwegler Associated team has spent a lot of time together with the policyholders trying to control the costs of the events happened to armored vans. The CIT company have invested considerable money to increase the security measures. The new technologies installed on the vans have therefore made the attacks to the vehicles more complicated and burdensome.

Nevertheless, the pavement risk remains a moment of great exposure and, despite the safety tools provided, there are still some vulnerabilities. We should consider that those who commit a robbery against vans are not necessarily the same ones who attack the guards when they are on foot. At least, both the police and the Carabinieri have been able to identify and capture a large number of criminals in recent years, effectively contributing to the decrease in attacks on vans.

The new defenses of armored vans

  • physical and ballistic protections capable of resisting the opening and breaking-through on all points of possible attack with longer penetration time;
  • more sophisticated alarm sensors, always active, capable of transmitting different changes in system status, suitably programmable from the operations center and not modifiable by the operators on board the vehicle;
  • increasingly efficient satellite gps systems, with multiple transmission channels and therefore difficult to obscure;
  • sensors capable of automatically detecting environmental anomalies in the event of an attack such as, for example, sudden shocks, loud noises, gunshots;
  • systems able to incorporate the cash in a resin that solidifies in a few seconds in the valuables compartment of the vans in the event of an alarm, making it non-removable;
  • briefcases for the transfer from the withdrawal point to the van and vice versa, capable of indelibly staining the cash in case of removal from the means used for transporting valuables;
  • security procedures managed by automatisms, relating the assignment of vehicle routes and the composition of the crews, making it rather difficult for criminals to gather information and discouraging any attempts of extortion against service managers and operators, since it is no longer the staff who decides the procedures;
  • periodic and rigorous checks on compliance with procedures, always under constant review, facing the change in conditions in the environmental context.

Cash counting room and remote controlled accesses

Many efforts by Schwegler Associated and CIT companies have been made to better protect staff and valuables on the road and much has been achieved for locations where large sums can be deposited on a daily basis. As for vehicles, we cannot go into detail for safety reasons. However, some elements can certainly be considered:

  • significant strengthening of physical and ballistic defenses, even outside the buildings;
  • implementation of electronic defenses relating to access control, alarm sensors, CCTV systems, including communication systems and remote transmission of alarms and images, on different transmission lines, with continuous monitoring (24 hours), carried out by different remote central operating stations, including direct links with law enforcement;
  • integration of systems with new solutions (fog machines, electromechanical locks with multiple back-up systems, etc.) capable of making the spaces temporarily inaccessible in case of attack and obviously during closure;
  • implementation of procedures for accessing value areas, the same for all those who are authorized to enter, including managers, with controls from the local and remote central operating stations;
  • newly designed perimeter walls and vehicle entry systems that are different from before;
  • preventing physical contact between the various parties, etc.


In general, the new measures, both on board of vans or inside the premises where the values are worked and stocked, no longer allow individual operators and managers to independently intervene on the opening systems and possibly deactivate the security systems. All this is normally managed by remote central operating stations with remote and multiple consents and video recognition, helping to avoid and circumscribe external and internal threats, physically directed on people, places and vehicles involved in the material management of values.

If you want to know more about the cash in transit world and the security systems, or you want to dig deeper, or need a consultancy, you can contact us.


Rapporto intersettoriale sulla criminalità 2020, ABI

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