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JAM | Mar 21, 2023

Beryllium feeling ‘heat’ to be better on its guard

Al Edwards

Al Edwards / Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Michael Mann’s movie Heat is one of the best cops and robbers films out there.

The duel between Al Pacino’s Lt Vincent Hanna and Robert De Niro’s Neil is truly epic.

Sadly, this kind of shootout battle is now a reality in Jamaica as crime escalates to another level.

Sunday’s bloody robbery in Portmore, St Catherine, which left four injured as security courier company Beryllium serviced a Scotia ATM machine at the Cookson Pen Branch, was marked with heavy gunfire wrought in broad daylight with civilians present.


The firepower overwhelmed the guards. The days of a six-shooter pistol are surely over. Guards have no answer to criminals with M-16s and Desert Eagles.

The boldness of the incident sends a signal to both the police and security companies that criminals are fearless and have the ability to assert themselves.

Just watch this scene from the movie Heat and surely parallels can be drawn.

Many companies and pundits are now admonishing Beryllium for not being better prepared. This is the second time in a matter of weeks that financial institutions have been robbed this way in Portmore.

How was Beryllium expected to know this was coming? Lightning strikes once but surely not twice in the same place. Portmore can no longer be seen as a benign municipality with Kingston being the hotbed of crime.

Civilians will get hurt in the crossfire if this is likely to continue. It is said crime accounts for more than five per cent of GDP in Jamaica. The damage is more insidious than that. It is incumbent on the Government to tame this beast and come up with answers.

If security guards are armed to the hilt and this should go off again, the mum and her young children shopping in the mall are likely to end up dead in an ensuing gun battle.

Lieutenant Commander George Overton, president of the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security and director at Guardsman Group.

Lt Commander Georger Overton, president of the Jamaica Society for Industrial Security, who is also a senior executive at the Guardsman Group of Companies, is absolutely right when he says that no amount of planning could have prevented this high-powered gun attack. The sounds resonating were similar to a battlefield in Ukraine. The shopping plaza was peppered with bullets. There’s not a lot Beryllium, or for that matter any security company, could have done given the circumstances. It was a lost cause.

Security companies will now have to re-evaluate their operating costs. This comes at a time when guards must be paid as full-time employees with benefits. It will not be surprising if many now demand hazard pay for confronting well-armed criminals.

The Beryllium van delivering money was well and truly shot up, despite being armoured. It may be time to bring in Bushmaster vehicles to make these cash deliveries.

Amateur video of the latest shootout involving a Beryllium security team and gunmen attempting to rob them in Portmore, St Catherine on the Sunday (March 19).

Clients in Jamaica will be reluctant to pay more for this kind of security but the reality is staring them in the face. As the country becomes overwhelmed by crime and violence, security costs come at a premium. Here demand outstrips supply and expertise is valued.

At last week’s Scotia Group Jamaica annual general meeting, CEO Audrey Tugwell-Henry said the company would be spending more on cybersecurity as it increasingly pivots to a digital model and encounters more cyber breaches.

After the Portmore robberies, it and other financial institutions will have to pay more attention to cash deliveries. A digital robot hasn’t been invented to handle that just yet.

Putting high-velocity weapons in the hands of security guards is fraught with problems and, again, operating costs must be factored.

We have now entered a new paradigm. Robbery is a bolder enterprise, with the stakes even higher.

It is a recipe for carnage on the streets of Jamaica with no police or law enforcement presence. Guards taking on robbers and civilians meeting grisly ends as properties are damaged. The collateral damage doesn’t bear thinking about.

We have now entered a new paradigm. Robbery is a bolder enterprise, with the stakes even higher. On Sunday, the shooters made off with J$23 million. Three weeks before that it was J$10 million. Be sure, the criminals will be upping the ante.

Yes guards and couriers will have to undergo a new form of training. But the question is, do they protect the money or their lives? And at what cost?

The Government must be mindful of the message being sent that crime truly pays.


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