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CRIME

Are Switzerland’s strict noise restrictions to blame for the surge in cash truck robberies?

With robberies of cash transporters so frequent in Switzerland, insurers will no longer cover deliveries in Vaud. We investigate why strict Swiss noise limits may be partly to blame.

Burnt out vehicles in the canton of Vaud
Burnt out vehicles in the canton of Vaud after a cash truck robbery. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland’s strict banking rules mean the country is known the world over as a safe place to keep your cash.

But for drivers of cash trucks – armoured cars which carry money and valuables to banks and other destinations – Switzerland is now so dangerous that insurers won’t cover certain regions. 

Cash transporters have now dropped particular routes, especially around the canton of Vaud. 

As a result, SecurePost will no longer deliver to or from Daillens, which has led to fears of cash shortages. 

Béatrice Métraux, the Vaud minister in charge of security, told Swiss national broadcaster that stopping the attacks must be an urgent priority. 

These attacks are shocking and dramatic. They’re shocking for the population, for the lorry drivers, and for public safety,” she said.

“Now it’s up to politicians to take urgent action.”

No money, no problems?

Post authorities have said that there may be disruptions “to the supply of money in Western Switzerland”, including ATMs not having enough cash. 

There have been a range of other steps taken, including installing security systems in transporters which spray the cash with ink during a robbery or otherwise destroy the valuables inside. 

Other security measures have been implemented, however the details have not been made public. 

Burnt out vehicles in the canton of Vaud after a cash truck robbery. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

A history of heists

For a country which prides itself on high levels of safety as much as Switzerland, it is perhaps surprising that heists are so prevalent. 

READ: Switzerland ranked one of the world’s ‘safest countries’

As reported by The Local, there were several attacks in Vaud alone in 2019, with more than ten taking place since 2006.

Many of them occur at night time. Night cash transportation is preferred not only for safety, but for economic reasons – as otherwise there is the risk that ATMs will run empty in the mornings. 

The most recent happened on December 2nd in Dalliens, when unidentified assailants stopped a cash transporter with guns, before blowing it up. 

According to Swiss national broadcaster Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF), the attacks are not carried out by locals. Instead, the perpetrators are well-organized criminal gangs from France or other neighbouring European countries. 

“In general, such attacks are committed by criminals from Lyon in France or by member of the travelling community,” Vaud cantonal police spokesperson Jean-Christophe Sauterel told SRF.

Why Switzerland – and why Vaud?

From isolation to opportunity, there are a range of theories as to why Vaud – and Dalliens – is such a frequent target. 

One major reason – and an apparent oversight on the part of the authorities – is that armoured cars in Switzerland are, well, not so armoured. 

Indeed, money is often transported in regular vans in the region and for security reasons cash is often transported at night.

As reported in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the strict Swiss law restrictions on noise prevent armoured cars – which are heavier and noisier than regular vehicles – from travelling at night or on Sundays. 

Under Swiss law, vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes cannot be driven at these times.  This essentially means the cash trucks are vulnerable to night time robberies.

READ: The ten weirdest laws in Switzerland

Oliver Feller, a politician from the centre-right FDP, has filed a motion which would provide an exemption to the noise restriction law for vehicles transporting cash. 

The Federal Council has officially provided a counter point in the motion, arguing that armoured trucks under this weight limit exist on the market and should be used to carry cash in the region to prevent the population from ‘stressful noise’. 

“Protecting the population from noise is a major concern of the Federal Council. Noise is a stress factor, reduces the quality of life and makes you sick,” the statement reads.

“Armoured vans for the transport of funds whose total weight is less than 3.5 tons are on the market… [T]hese vehicles are not subject to the ban on driving on Sunday and at night.”

Little protection under 3.5 tonnes

However, representatives from companies which transport the money have argued that these lighter vehicles provide little protection. 

Luc Sergy, managing director of the Association of Swiss Security Service Companies (VSSU), said the rule showed the poor understanding Swiss legislators had when it comes to safety in money transportation. 

“The Federal Council is highlighting its ignorance with regard to armour systems,” Sergy said. 

Sergy told the NZZ that only minimal reinforcements could be made to vehicles under 3.5 tonnes – with industry standards requiring vehicles which weigh between 20 and 25 tonnes. 

Although money can be transported during the day, as a result customers can expect more frequent disruptions – particularly in the mornings when ATMs are likely to be empty. 

Another reason for the frequency of the heists is Vaud’s central location in one of the most populous regions of Switzerland, which makes it a frequent transit point for cash not only from Switzerland but from Europe in general. 

Other steps which are being rolled out include strengthening police patrols along the border. 

Member comments

  1. I know the Swiss love cash inhand. But maybe this is a way of telling people to use a credit or debit card. As a plus some stores will give you cash back when you use a debit card. And stores losck their cash drawers up at night, and they can also accept cash shipments during the day. When the trucks can be noiser and much safer.

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CRIME

OPINION: Switzerland’s rape laws are not fit for purpose and reforms are long overdue

As they stand Switzerland's rape laws are more useful to perpetrators of sex assaults than to the victims, writes Clare O'Dea as she explains why new reforms are long overdue.

OPINION: Switzerland's rape laws are not fit for purpose and reforms are long overdue

It is widely accepted that Switzerland’s current rape law, last revised thirty years ago, is not fit for purpose. Partly in response to international obligations, the Swiss political system is finally addressing the problem and concrete progress is inching closer.

The failings in the current legal model include a too-narrow definition of what sexual act constitutes rape, the exclusion of male victims of rape, the requirement to prove violence or coercion, and the soft sanctions against convicted rapists.

Taken together, these weaknesses make Swiss rape legislation as it now stands a lot more useful to perpetrators of rape than it is to victims.

There were 757 rapes reported in Switzerland last year, and only 77 rapists convicted, some of whom did not receive custodial sentences. The overall number of reported sex offences in 2021 was 6,909. 

But extensive change is coming in all four problem areas, partly thanks to the Istanbul Convention on violence against women. A revision of the Swiss law, compliant with the Convention, is working its way through parliament. The Council of States has just supported the reform positions of the Federal Council, and the National Council is expected to go at least as far when it takes up the debate later this year.

The definition of rape is set to be expanded to include any kind of penetration against the will of the person, not just vaginal penetration by a penis. This means more sexual acts can be prosecuted as rape. Combined with the use of the gender-neutral word ‘person’, it also means that males will be recognised as victims of rape for the first time under Swiss law.

The Council of States also voted to introduce a minimum two-year prison sentence for convicted rapists. This is important because sentences under two years are automatically suspended in Switzerland, which has meant some rapists walk away without serving any time behind bars.

It is hard to imagine the anguish of victims seeing their abusers get off so lightly, without any prison time or even being named and shamed in their community. In ordinary circumstances, the names of convicted criminals are not made public in Switzerland.

These changes, if accepted by the larger parliamentary chamber, will represent a major step forward for victim’s rights, and bring Switzerland into line with most other European countries on rape law.

The final unresolved issue is how to proceed when the use of force is no longer part of the legal definition of rape. We know it is possible to do something to someone against their will without using force. There are many reasons victims may not resist, including the phenomenon of freezing in shock.

There is a growing international movement to reconceptualise rape and other sexual offences as violations of the victim’s sexual autonomy. More and more European countries – 13 and counting – are moving away from the violence-based definition of rape to a broader definition of rape being sex without consent.

Right now in Switzerland, the camps are split into those who advocate for the explicit expression of consent – ‘Only Yes Means Yes’ – as the best legal formula to establish rape, and those who say it’s the refusal of consent that must be expressed – ‘No Means No’. The Council of States opted for No Means No.

Unfortunately, all of this may be academic in a court setting where there is no record of such statements on the part of the alleged victim either way.  The use of force, threats or psychological pressure, is already hard to prove. So what’s the point of the change?

What it will hopefully do is reinforce the message that it is imperative to listen to the person you are about to have sex with and that what they want matters. Even if you don’t care what they want at that moment, the law does.

It tells potential victims that their wishes matter, that consent is not something to be brushed aside to satisfy one person’s demands. It is good to have this spelled out in law. Remember that marital rape, for example, only entered the Swiss criminal code in 1991.

When it comes to giving consent, I don’t think it matters which model you use – say yes or say no – putting consent at the top of the agenda between sexual partners will help make a cultural difference. But a lot more needs to happen outside the legal arena to make this a safer country for women and girls in particular.

Sadly, the unreported incidence of sexual assault and rape is high. Amnesty International commissioned a survey of women in Switzerland in 2019 in which 12% of respondents said they had had non-consensual sexual intercourse. More than one in five (22%) had been subject to unwanted sexual acts in their lives. Only 8% of these victims notified the police.

Could we produce a new generation of women who feel secure enough to say ‘I don’t want this’ and a new generation of men who would listen to them and respect their wishes? We are not there yet, especially not with the ubiquity of porn culture that has become markedly more violent towards women.

There are still some hard questions to be asked about why rape happens. Why is it that a subset of men will disregard the dignity, comfort or safety of another person for their own sexual gratification? How are we as a society contributing to this sense of entitlement?

Ultimately, weeding out rape culture will achieve a lot more than the courts can, even with this better law.

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