Sunday, February 25, 2018

Banking security found wanting

Express editorial logo345

Mark Fraser

 Reassuringly, without waiting to be told via the message of another million-dollar heist, banks have seen the need to “reconsider security”.

As Republic Bank managing director David Dulal-Whiteway noted this week, the virtual cash-pot image of banks makes them targets for the most daring and scheming of wrongdoers.

Bankers have been preoccupied with defeating white-collar criminals who employ digital and other means to defraud them. Blue-collar bandits are, meanwhile, finding ways to shoot and break their way in, gaining access to stashes of cash.

Surging crime has made life more difficult for businesses, and for ordinary people. But the public is entitled to expect banks to live up to their reputations for security, and knowledgeable prudence in the safekeeping of their own and other people’s money.

Every break-and-enter robbery is bad news. But last weekend’s multi-million-dollar snatch from the vault of Republic’s Sangre Grande branch, following November’s hit on a security van said to be carrying more than $17 million in cash, makes for distressingly bad news.

In a full-page advertisement on Carnival Monday, when many of its customers would have had other things on their minds, Republic disclosed that the robbery occurred at approximately 2 a.m. on Saturday, when “the thieves were able to gain access to the bank’s vault and made off with approximately $4.5 million in cash”.

“This branch does not provide a safety-deposit locker service, but several items brought in by six customers for safekeeping were tampered with by the intruders,” the statement continued.

“As is the norm, several of the bank’s staff were interviewed in the process of the investigation. Republic Bank has provided all video footage and other electronic security evidence to the police and continues to work with law-enforcement officials to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice,” it concluded.

Which is better said than done and raises many questions regarding the bank’s security network, the main one being—did someone in Sangre Grande get too involved in Carnival celebrations or simply go AWOL?

And was there an alarm system at the bank that would have alerted officers at the nearby Sangre Grande Police Station? Or was it rendered useless by these brazen bandits?

It is all rather disconcerting that a robbery of such magnitude could be carried out in this era of high-tech surveillance and other top-notch security systems, which we would have felt would have put a stop to bank heists of this nature.

With that in mind, banks and bankers must be seen to be doing better to defend against those predictably preying upon their security soft spots.

And, hopefully, when—rather than if—it is ascertained in what areas the bank’s security system failed, these will be quickly rectified to bring to an end such robberies and put their customers at ease, in the knowledge that their hard-earned money is safe and sound.