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Couriers urged to rejig operations after fatal hold-up

Published:Tuesday | February 28, 2023 | 3:25 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
A detective process a crime scene at the Portmore Pines Plaza in Portmore, St Catherine, after a fatal shooting and robbery on Monday morning.
A detective process a crime scene at the Portmore Pines Plaza in Portmore, St Catherine, after a fatal shooting and robbery on Monday morning.

The St Catherine South police have advised the operators of money courier services to review their tactical operations and training regime in the wake of a deadly $10-million heist in Portmore Pines on Monday.

Early Monday morning, a three-member Beryllium crew came under attack while delivering cash to a JN Bank in the Portmore Pines Plaza. Three guards were shot in the incident, one fatally, as the thieves escaped with two bags of cash.

“I would make a serious call to the companies who are doing courier services to review their tactical manoeuvres, to review their numbers in terms of these types of transaction, including the type of vehicles that they are using for these kinds of operations,” said Senior Superintendent Christopher Phillips, who heads the St Catherine South Police Division, in the aftermath of the bloody attack.

“The police are well trained and know how to manoeuvre in these circumstances. As to the private security companies, it is something that they have to assess and see what the gaps in their training and tactical operation are,” the lawman added.

On Monday, Lt Comm George Overton, president of the Jamaica Society of Industrial Guards, expressed condolences to the family of the deceased guard and wished a speedy recovery for the others.

He told The Gleaner that while couriers would love to invest in more high-end armoured vehicles, this would be a very costly endeavour and their clients would not be able to afford such a service.

“In our business, everybody has to pay for the service. Our responsibility is to mitigate the risk while being able to deliver affordable cost to the marketplace,” he told The Gleaner.

“We would love to buy the Bushmasters (armoured vehicles) like what the army has to deliver money, but who would be able to pay for that service? Not even the Bank of Jamaica would be able to pay,” argued Overton.

In his defence of the service provided by couriers, Overton pointed out that the number of deliveries that are made yearly relative to the number of incidents speaks volumes.

He highlighted the need for the buildout of the JamaicaEye surveillance system, suggesting that this could help in preventing incidents of this nature, and tougher measures to deal with criminals responsible for such brutality.

Phillips, in the meantime, disclosed that the St Catherine South police are currently looking at building out their Business Watch Programme, which was launched last year.

He said that the attack on the guards transporting money to a financial institution presents an opportunity to hasten the initiative, starting with financial institutions.

The senior cop argued, however, that the police would not be able to do it alone, noting that everyone needs to take security seriously.

According to the cop, the deceased guard, whose identity was not disclosed, did not stand a chance. He was reportedly shot in the head at close range with an M16 assault rifle, before the bandits shot his female guard in both legs and lower body. The third guard received minor wounds.

Police sources told The Gleaner that the female guard was able to return fire while on the ground, but it remained unclear whether any of the men were hit.

Business operators in the Portmore Pines Plaza were severely affected by Monday’s incident. Many closed their businesses for the day while others shut their doors to customers until they were given the all-clear by the police.