I felt compelled to put together this article one day when I observed a security man, whose responsibility it was to offer guard on the premises of a rural bank, watching a game of draft near the entrance of the bank in rapt and absolute attention.
This happened in 2008 in the Ashanti Region where I was serving as a national service person. A bank robber would have had it far easier to overrun or take the security officer out and carry on with his robbery operation.
We need to take a second look at the manner in which security officers provide guard on banking premises. Any security expert would testify that concealed security posed far greater danger to any prospective criminal than security that was glaring and noticed by everybody.
The idea of security officers sitting in front of banks and providing security is outmoded and needs to be changed.
The reason is that it puts would-be criminals steps ahead as they are able to put the guardsmen under surveillance for days, estimating their strengths and weaknesses and in the process reinforce their plans to execute their robbery operations with maximum success.
The only advantage of obvious and unconcealed security is intimidation. The big question then is how intimidating is security on bank premises in the country to a depositor or customer let alone a hardened criminal?
The Ghana Police Service (GPS) will testify that in spite of the security that is provided on most bank premises, almost all bank robbery operations in living memory in this country were 99 per cent successful.
All these operations, in one way or the other, ended up in the death of a police or security officer or some bank official. It is quite necessary and of a matter of urgency that the GPS and financial institutions in this country review their security methods to stop the police and security officers and other innocent people from becoming mere hunting preys.
Security at banks should come with modern security technology and extensive surveillance systems deployed in the banks to aid guardsmen in the maintenance of security within and without.
Banking halls should be redesigned with guardsmen inside the banks monitoring the activities of people on screens so that both the interior and the exterior of banks are put under surveillance.
In that way, guardsmen will be steps ahead of prospective criminals instead of the other way round. This type of security should not be noticed by customers or other casual observers in the banking halls.
A lot of guardsmen have lost their lives to bank robbery operations because the current security system and the philosophy behind the security expose the guardsmen to far greater danger. Criminals are always steps ahead of the guardsmen as they are able to watch the guardsmen and their targets over a period of days, weeks or months. With a concealed security, guardsmen could spot suspicious customers and this will give them the first strike advantage.
Therefore, there is the need for a seismic change in the manner in which security is currently maintained on bank premises.
Even at the Bank of Ghana you will find soldiers noticeably maintaining guard.
I don’t wish it to happen, but it is possible for hardened criminals of different nationality to infiltrate our system, put these soldiers under surveillance over a period of time, estimate their noticeable and obvious guard strength and carry out a dangerous successful operation to steal large sums of money from the State and cause fatalities in the process.
This calls for cooperation and action from Parliament, the Ghana Police Service, the BOG and all other relevant stakeholders to make concrete proposals so that the current glaring security on banks is substituted with a concealed one.
In a related issue, the financial institutions can also scan or photograph some of their bills as a security measure in advance so that in case there is a bank robbery operation, then they will have another option of not offering resistance thereby taking themselves out of harm’s way.
The bills can then be offered to the criminals in the banking hall willingly with very minimum resistance, then later, on the bills can be traced simply by matching the serial numbers on the photographic copies to the original bills when the criminals put the bills into circulation in their effort to spend it, thereby locating them in the process.
The criminals may use the bills in one general location over a long period of time. This is a long shot but at least, it is better than nothing.