In the wake of another attack on a team from Beryllium Limited at Braeton Parkway on Sunday, commander of the St Catherine South Police, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Christopher Phillips has promised that the division will be adjusting its focus, particularly in relation to the business community.
"Obviously there is planning taking place, there is surveillance taking place, and these guys are organising themselves and being very deliberate in the type of attacks that they're making. That will inform our deployment going forward; looking at the most vulnerable points throughout the division and to have police presence, or at least have them policing an area where they can respond quickly," SSP Phillips told journalists following the incident.
About 12:40 pm, gunmen with high-powered weapons launched their attack on the team in the vicinity of Scotiabank, while they were in the process of servicing the ATMs attached to the bank building. The attack sent people scampering for cover as gunshots pierced the Sunday afternoon quiet. Four security officers were shot and injured, Beryllium confirmed, and the police said the bandits made off with an undetermined sum of money.
This is the third attack on Beryllium teams in just under a year, the second of which happened at the end of February when gunmen staged a brutal morning attack, also in Portmore, as personnel delivered cash to a Jamaica National Bank ATM in a nearby shopping centre. One Beryllium member was killed and two injured as the thieves made off with approximately $10 million.
Amateur footage from Sunday's incident showed the driver of the Beryllium vehicle taking evasive action, while another clip showed two motor cars which the robbers were alleged to have abandoned as they fled the area.
SSP in charge of corporate communications for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Stephanie Lindsay, said quick on the scene, the police traced the two vehicles suspected to be involved in the incident to nearby Lakes Pen in St Catherine and confiscated the units, but no one had been nabbed up to that time.
Last June criminals made off with over $20 million from a Beryllium vehicle in Rollington Town, east Kingston, after the unarmoured unit developed mechanical problems on a road in the area, where the team was pounced upon.
SSP Lindsay advised that the military was carrying out operations in the Lakes Pen area and that the police are following strong leads.
She said based on the number of spent shells found on the scene, there were quite a number of shots fired.
"At the moment it's a wide investigation. The investigators aren't ruling out anything," she said, noting that the St Catherine South police are also advanced in their investigations into February's attack and robbery.
"It's a possibility that they could be making some breakthrough in that matter," she said, advising that one person is in custody from that incident, but that it was too early to say whether both incidents are linked, or if they may have been 'inside jobs'.
"What we can say is that there are similarities, but we don't know if they are linked as yet," she said.
Lindsay said the police will engage the banks and the security company, given the concerns customers may now have about using ATM services. She also urged personal vigilance, although the attacks were not on individuals.
In a statement last night, Andre McLean, president of Beryllium Limited, said one of its vehicles and the crew came under heavy attack at Scotiabank, Cookson Pen branch.
"The driver and three crew members were shot and injured. We are cooperating with the police in their investigations. Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with the crew and their family at this time," McLean said.
He added: "For the safety of our clients and our team, Beryllium is currently assessing its operations islandwide, which may result in delays in the delivery of services."
Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for St Catherine Southern Fitz Jackson told the Jamaica Observer shortly after Sunday's incident that he has had concerns about security in parts of the constituency for some time now and was in dialogue with the police regarding resource constraints in areas such as Hellshire.
"There are some resource constraints; I would say severe," he said.
SSP Phillips said criminals appear to be "free-styling" in Portmore, lurking for opportunities to pounce on vulnerable individuals.
"So some of that does happen, and in some of those cases you won't necessarily have the police there on location to respond. It's full time that people understand that all of us have to be a part of securing our nation," he said.
He said that, while there is always need for additional policing resources, the police have been studying the crime trends and adjusting operations accordingly.
SSP Lindsay pointed out that, with security teams now targeted at two financial institutions, this is an opportunity for other companies to review their security systems.