Stokes urges police to target crime syndicates

DEVELOPMENT economist Dr Chris Stokes is urging the authorities to target crime syndicates to prevent further attacks on cash couriers.

Addressing a meeting of the Rotary Club of Trafalgar New Heights last Thursday, Stokes focused on the repercussions of trending attacks on cash transporters, and seemingly endorsed a decision by the police to create a special squad, led by a superintendent, to go after the masterminds of the recent attacks on teams from Beryllium transporting cash to automated teller machines (ATMs).

“We have to approach this by disrupting, dislodging, destroying the crime syndicates,” declared Stokes.

“We need to take a systematic approach to the root of crime, and if we don’t do that it’s going to be something else,” added Stokes.

While declaring that he was not trying to be insensitive, Stokes said he was a little surprised that it has taken so long for the criminals to start targeting the cash couriers.

“We have people with resources and capabilities who are engaging in this activity. You hear a lot of things about where they are happening and why they are happening there but understand that there are hundreds of ATMs around the country; they carry a lot of money and part of the business decision is, we are the softer targets,” said Stokes.

“So what you have is these brilliant people — and I don’t want to confuse the issue [because] they are thugs and murderers — but they are organising crime. You have to connect the dots between the clampdown on scamming, the rise in cyber theft in banking, and now the attacks on cash-in-transit vehicles. They are not unconnected,” added Stokes.

He called on security companies and financial entities to improve their treatment of the security guards. According to Stokes, along with salary issues security guards now have heightened safety concerns as their lives are at risk due to the attacks.

“The security industry is already under pressure because now the Government is saying [based on a court ruling] ‘You can’t pay the guy on contract, you have to hire him full-time.’ [This is] easily a 50 to 60 per cent increase in the staff cost so it is not a small matter. From a moral perspective, it strikes me as vile because you are talking about people’s lives.

“A lot of these predatory lending institutions which we have seen — or micro lending institutions which may not be predators — have as their major clients security guards who believe that they are being underpaid by these security companies, and now all are at risk and some are being killed,” said Stokes.

The economist argued that security companies now have to make a business decision to improve the safety of security guards.

“How much do the vests cost? How many of them are you going to need? What kind of licensed firearm is big enough? The cost to maintain it, what does it cost if you are going to use an armoured vehicle? Those are the questions,” said Stokes.

Attacks on Beryllium security teams were carried out by gunmen in St Catherine in February at the Portmore Pines Plaza where a Beryllium security guard was fatally shot and two others injured, and then in March at the Scotiabank branch in Portmore where $23 million was stolen.

In April a Beryllium vehicle was attacked by gunmen in an attempted robbery in Balaclava, St Elizabeth, while in the latest incident in Albion, St Thomas, two weekends ago a team was fired on but the criminals did not succeed in stealing any money.