A mobile security pilot project is underway in downtown Terrace to try to increase public safety at ATM vestibules after-hours.
Following many complaints from customers feeling unsafe, three banks have come together to resolve the issue by contracting Securiguard, a security company, to regularly monitor their facilities throughout the night from Feb. 4 onwards.
“This has been a long-term piece more specific to the banks… I think we’ve been in that position now where we’ve seen enough to take the opportunity to move forward with [security],” says Matt Berube, branch manager of the north coast at Securiguard.
Berube says that this mobile security project is the first-ever contract of its kind in the region for their company and that it’s still in the test pilot process.
From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night, the security guard’s main task is to safely secure the ATM vestibules inside the three banks by encouraging anyone there for non-banking-related reasons to relocate from the premises. Berube says he could not reveal which banks are part of the project due to privacy.
“We’re very much in the infancy of it now, but we have people committed to this and they’d like to see this move to full-time,” says Berube. “We’re [also] speaking with other clients to see where else can utilize those services.”
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) customer Denise Lefrancois says that she and her family have been banking with RBC for over 20 years but she has become concerned with her safety accessing the ATMs vestibules.
“I never go to the bank if I see someone standing there… I never go after dark,” says LeFrancois. “I [now] do most of my banking online because I see people there all the time.”
Growing frustrated, Lefrancois publicly posted on the Terrace Customer Service Reviews Facebook page to express that they would be switching banks.
An RBC representative then contacted her to apologize and told her that preventative measures were being taken to resolve the issue.
“We will make up our mind later whether we’ll change over or not,” she says. “I would just like to see better security.”
Amanda Walterhouse, now a former RBC customer, says she experienced an abrasive situation when withdrawing money two months ago.
“I no longer went to RBC alone… I pretty much changed my bank fairly quickly after that,” writes Walterhouse to the Terrace Standard.
Tim Carmeck, RBC’s regional vice president for B.C. Interior North, says that they’ve taken many steps to ensure the safety of their customers and staff, such as brightening lights around their building, playing opera music to make the environment uncomfortable and will now be locking their ATM doors beginning Feb.25.
Joining in on the mobile security project was also a necessary decision.
But he says the ongoing situation is not Terrace-specific and that there needs to be more involvement from the community.
“It’s a complex problem and the fact that we have people that need to turn to areas like this in order to get shelter, it’s not one that we can solve on our own,” says Carmeck. “I think it speaks to a much larger issue… One of the pieces is how do we come together as a community, and how do we solve it.”
Berube echos that approach and says that their guards must take extra training when being allocated to this specialized area of security.
“We like to put our guards through our own training above and beyond, so we get into cultural sensitivity, mental health awareness, conflict resolution and those are pieces where we try to equip our guards with a little more in order to deal with those kinds of situations.”
He says that their mandate doesn’t include physical measures and that their guards are only required to verbally deescalate a scene.
“If they don’t leave, we just revert to calling the RCMP — we don’t escalate, we don’t arrest, we don’t do that piece,” Berube says.
“We’re trying to free them up a bit more… I don’t want to call this a policing issue. Police want to deal with higher level issues, [so] we’re hoping to come in and take them on [only] when we’re at that point that we need support.”