Robberies trigger calls for law governing business security
Some stakeholders concerned costs could shackle small entrepreneurs
THE UPTICK in multimillion-dollar robberies on financial institutions and businesses that handle large sums of money has triggered a call among stakeholders for legislation to make it mandatory for these businesses to install a standard security system.
While there is general agreement about the need for increased security, views vary around the accompanying articles as some may prove burdensome to small and medium-sized enterprises.
Fenley Douglas, a councillor and businessman in the Portmore municipality, strongly favours a mandatory standardised security system.
“The time has come for a standard security system to be established at these business places as a legal requirement, and this should be implemented across the board to protect staff and ensure public safety,” Douglas said.
“We are seeing a more organised approach by the gangs in the way they target businesses that handle large sums of cash, but what can be a deterrent is the knowledge that each business has a system in place that is linked to the nearest police stations, and the stations have a quick response team ready to be deployed,” Douglas told The Gleaner.
There have been attacks recently on Beryllium security guards attempting to service ATMs in Portmore Pines Plaza and Scotiabank along Braeton Parkway, in which two security guards were killed, five others wounded, and a combined $33 million stolen; a failed robbery attempt at a Beryllium vehicle, which was fired upon by gunmen in St Elizabeth; a $24-million heist at a gas station in Old Harbour; and an $8-million robbery at a money shop in Mandeville.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Christopher Phillips, head of the St Catherine South Police Division, recently called on businesses that handle large sums of money to build out their own security systems, arguing that police numbers are insufficient to provide round-the-clock protection for businesses.
Advocating his view, which supports the SSP’s position, Douglas acknowledged that it also carries the burden of increased operational costs. He suggested that the Government, through the Firearm Licensing Authority (FLA), works with a team of security consultants to develop the system.
“The public safety is at risk. The protection of customers and staff, in my view, far outweighsthe cost to install such a system. Furthermore, the FLA should be given the responsibility of developing and implementing the system, as well as handling the sale of the equipment needed. It could institute payment plans to ease the burden on business owners who would otherwise have to find the cash upfront to pay for the system,” Douglas noted.
Jamaica Chamber of Commerce President Michael McMorris said his organisation would welcome a collaborative approach, rather than one that adds mandatory and indiscriminate costs to businesses.
“Collaboration on projects such as the CCTV network has yet to reach anywhere near their true potential. We should deliver on those projects first and seek cooperation to effect collective security, rather than prescribing requirements and levying costs,” McMorris told The Gleaner.
President of the Small Business Association of Jamaica, Michael Leckie, believes there should be increased protection for businesses handling large sums of cash.
“There are merits to this argument; security has been the number one issue to my constituents,” said Leckie. “We are still grappling as to what is the answer to this crime situation and we would not be having this discussion if the crime had not advanced this far.
“I hear what the councillor and the SSP are saying. I would embrace the ideas, but the thing about legislation is that it always has to be tweaked if something else happens. What is needed, I will agree, is a standardised security system for businesses. But to go further, it will affect small and medium-sized businesses that are already strapped for cash,” he added.
Leckie, though, agrees that there should be an agency responsible for developing the standard security system.
“It has to be something that is visible and allows the public to know that the business is linked to the closest police station and the security forces are tied into the plan, having the ability to respond rapidly,” he said. “This can be a deterrent [to criminals] if it is known that such a system exists.”
Meanwhile, while declining to comment on Douglas’ proposal, Kenneth Benjamin, CEO of the Guardsman Group, under which Beryllium falls, revealed that his company has stepped up its security arrangements.
“When we go to a bank now, we want a reserved spot for an armoured truck. It has to be right across from the entrance, so we don’t have to walk too far with bags of money,” Benjamin told The Gleaner.
According to Benjamin, some banks are arranging to put their ATMs in enclosed areas as an added security measure.
Benjamin added that a lot of meetings are now taking place between the banks and the company to discuss how to improve security and ensure public safety.