More action needed to prevent robberies at cash-rich premises, say experts

More action needed to prevent robberies at cash-rich premises, say experts

With two armed robberies taking place in two days in Singapore, authorities and security consultants are urging the likes of money-changers, remittance agents and betting outlets to take steps to take further precautions.

People look at the exchange rate at a Moneychanger displaying posters of U.S. dollars, Chinese Yuan
File photo of people looking at the exchange rate at a money changer (Photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)

SINGAPORE: Two armed robberies in two days in Singapore has prompted authorities and security experts to call on cash-rich establishments to beef up crime preventive measures.

On Monday (Jul 31), a man wearing a motorcycle helmet robbed a Shell petrol station of S$2,000 cash in broad daylight, using a kitchen knife to force an employee to hand over money from the cash register. He has since been arrested and charged.

The next morning, another man donned a motorcycle helmet, waved a knife around and made off with more than SS2,000 cash from a Western Union money transfer service branch. He is still at large.

This second robbery prompted policemen to visit Mr Mohamed Sultan at Triple Star, his 13-year-old money-changing business at Holland Village. “They came down to tell us what happened at Western Union, and to be careful,” he said, adding that he would now consider installing a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera.

Like other money changers Channel NewsAsia spoke to, Triple Star employs a glass panel as its primary - and sometimes only - form of security.

A Mr Hamzah of Twin Towers Exchange, located within The Central mall at Clarke Quay, said he placed his safety entirely in the hands of building management. Over at Cuppage Money Changer, Mr Sabeer Syed Sathak told Channel NewsAsia he used to have both a CCTV camera and alarm installed but removed the latter to cut costs.

“We’ve had no incident in 20 years,” he said.

Meanwhile Singapore Pools, which operates a multitude of lottery and sports betting outlets across Singapore said its security measures include CCTV, alarm intrusion detection and “managed access control systems”.

And local remittance service Pay2Home, which has six outlets in Singapore, said its approach to security includes around-the-clock, realtime surveillance, regular testing of processes, staff and equipment as well as the maintaining of a constant state of vigilance.

Pay2Home has also cut the amount of its cash transactions by almost 40 per cent in the last five years by pioneering hundreds of 24-hour, self-service Money Transfer Machines. The aim, said director David Hulme, is to pave the way for proper traceability and audit trails - while reducing the company’s vulnerability to robberies.

“We come from a banking background and we deploy bank strength security solutions,” he added. “Our approach is to anticipate these types of threats, then plan for them irrespective of their low incidence in Singapore.”

Singapore pools
Punters at a Singapore Pools outlet (File photo: Nisha Karyn)


The day after both robberies, the Singapore police issued an advisory suggesting business owners implement additional measures such as metal grilles at counters, armed security guards as well as hardened and secured access doors to authorised staff areas.

Former top policeman Koh Hong-Eng, now Global Chief Public Safety Expert at global tech firm Huawei, also proposed other steps such as not keeping unnecessary amounts of cash in the register and locking up extra amounts in a safe at the back.

“Some establishments may find the price too prohibitive to install high-end, intelligent video surveillance systems,” he noted. “Public safety agencies have to partner technology companies to raise the ante.”

Mr Koh said the use of cloud technologies, for instance, could help link video surveillance systems owned by different agencies across the country, to analyse and connect the dots between locations of vehicles or persons-of-interest before and after an incident.

Another ex-cop, Paul Lim, recommended installing plexiglass at cashier counters - a more expensive but stronger and more shatter-resistant alternative to the commonly-found regular glass screens.

The chief executive of Singapore-based security solutions provider Secura also advised companies to engage a remote, off-site surveillance service. This would offer round-the-clock monitoring by centre operators who can alert the police immediately when incidents happen.

A Pay2Home outlet in Singapore (Photo: Facebook Pay2Home)


Even though the recent robberies happened within a short span of time, such cases remain uncommon in Singapore, said Mr Lim.

Noting that Singapore’s tough laws result in a low risk of armed robbery, Mr Koh said: “It’s unfortunate that recently we saw two armed robberies... but generally I don’t think people are feeling anxious, mainly with active and prompt media engagement by authorities.”

“Our public safety agencies are doing well in their swift, factual, brief and regular releases.”

Reiterating the local adage that “low crime doesn’t mean no crime”, Mr Lim said: “Crime prevention and detection are always the better options.”

“The authorities can in fact take this opportunity to remind that it is in everyone’s interest to always maintain a level of alertness and keep a look out… Everyone must play a part in keeping the community safe.”

Mr Koh agreed. “During the first robbery on July 31, a customer of the petrol station trailed the suspect on the road for a short distance and also called the police - this, is a perfect example of collaborative public safety.”