(TT GUARDIAN) – In the last 18 months, citizens have been robbed of more than $1 million in cash just after leaving financial institutions—bank branches and ATMs—according to statistics from the T&To Police Service (TTPS).
More than $580,000 was stolen in 18 incidents this year, while $509,245 was stolen in 25 incidents for 2022, totalling more than $1.06 million. In ten separate incidents, people were robbed of $50,000 or more.
The single largest robbery during that period resulted in the victim losing $100,000 outside the Masjid-Ul-Mutaqueen Mosque on Munroe Road in April 2022.
The area with the most reported robberies outside of financial institutions is San Juan where there have been eight robberies. Trincity, Valsayn and St Augustine have had five robberies each. Of those, the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus had three robberies, while Trincity Mall and Valpark had two robberies each.
Other areas where robberies occurred were Chaguanas and San Fernando with four robberies each. Two took place at an ATM located at Cipero Street.
Meanwhile, Tunapuna, Curepe, Penal, Maraval, Arima, Woodbrook, Port-of-Spain, Glencoe and Point Lisas had one reported robbery each during the period.
As recently as mid-June, a 36-year-old Bon Air Gardens resident withdrew $9,000 from a bank located off Trincity Central Road. Shortly after, he went to the East Gates Mall car park to deposit the cash into another bank. However, when he parked his vehicle, he was robbed by two armed men.
He was robbed of $10,000 in cash as well as a cell phone.
Special TTPS team for robberies
Following the incident, Deputy Commissioner of Police Curt Simon said TTPS analysts are “drilling down deep into” the upsurge of robberies targeting bank customers.
The Sunday Guardian contacted DCP Simon for an update, and he said the TTPS has made a number of arrests recently in relation to the string of robberies. He acknowledged that the TTPS remains concerned, but said a special team is acting based on a data and intelligence-driven project. He said the project started around a month ago and is yielding results.
“We have made some arrests, but again I don’t have any data in front of me to supply you. We have made some significant arrests, and persons have been charged. I think even up to this week, a person was arrested. Someone was arrested in relation to the last one we had which was when $100,000 was taken from someone,” DCP Simon said.
Asked if the information gathered by the TTPS suggests that staff from banks or other financial institutions might be involved, he said he cannot answer questions related to the ongoing investigations at this time. He said, however, that the information they’ve been gathering is paying off and several people have been charged in relation to the crimes.
“We expect to see a reduction in these crimes, but that doesn’t mean that because we see a reduction, investigations will come to a halt. The investigations will be completed until we are satisfied that we have eradicated this problem or reduced it significantly,” he sought to assure the public.
The Sunday Guardian also approached the communication departments of several banks for comment but was referred to a release issued by the Bankers Association of Trinidad and Tobago (BATT) earlier this month.
The BATT said it remains concerned about recent reports of robberies that seem to be related to cash withdrawals from various financial institutions. The association said it has a zero-tolerance policy for any type of criminal activity and has always placed customers’ security as its number one priority.
“Our banks have instituted several safety measures including improvements to the internal technological infrastructure, as well as collaboration with the Trinidad & Tobago Police Service (TTPS) through BATT’s Inter-Bank Security Committee to apprehend any individual who engages in any type of criminal activity against the Banks or its customers.
“With regards to the new fraud typology, there have been no shimming incidents across all banks in Trinidad & Tobago. The new chip technology rolled out by all member banks prevents the successful swiping of cards locally,” the release stated.
Offering advice, the association urged customers to, as much as possible, use online banking platforms; verify the transaction amount before using their card; shield their PINs when using point-of-sale machines and ATMs; not share their PINs and avoid leaving debit or credit cards unattended or out of your sight; Avoid making payments to clear any packages promised to you through interaction with persons on WhatsApp; and to avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails,” the statement said.