Over a number of years, the Police Service has been working closely with financial institutions and cash in transit companies to prevent 'tiger' kidnaps taking place and to protect those people who may be most vulnerable to this kind of criminality.
A tiger kidnap is the abduction or holding of a hostage (or claim of having done so) with the intention of forcing another person to facilitate the immediate theft of any valuables or concede some other form of ransom.
Significant steps have been taken to minimise the amount of cash accessible by employees and to improve security systems. The Police Service has invested heavily in training a cadre of senior investigating officers to national standards and we have committed ourselves to working closely with industry and to making amenable to the courts those criminals involved.
By working together, we have been able to share information and best practice across the Police Service and throughout the financial sector, resulting in a number of successful policing operations and the arrest and subsequent conviction of criminals.
These joined-up efforts are having a noticeable deterrent factor. Collectively, we are reducing the number of incidents and the amounts involved. There were 14 incidents in 2004, seven in 2005, 12 in 2006, 11 in 2007, 10 in 2008 and 10 so far this year.
The amounts involved have decreased substantially, from more than £30m in 2004 (the year of the Northern Bank attack) to less than 2% of that high.
Nonetheless, I am concerned that, in the current economic climate, criminals will see this type of crime as lucrative unless we work together to reduce the potential rewards and the risks of being detected. We therefore hope to make further improvements in the months and years ahead. Current analysis indicates that the steps that we have taken with the financial sector may have a displacement effect, particularly in the run up to Christmas.
A number of retailers and members of the licensed trade have already been victims of tiger kidnaps. However, as we approach Christmas, and the sales season, we might anticipate that criminals will again focus their attention on such businesses as they try to get access to cash.
I'm keen, therefore, for us to build on the partnerships that already exist within the business community and to ask businesses to review their security arrangements in the run-up to Christmas.
Be assured: the police will work professionally to preserve the safety of any hostages, to release them quickly and safely and to protect all victims.
But members of the business community can help us to protect them if they follow some very simple basic rules:
* Avoid patterns.
* Regularly review your personal security.
* Know where you are most vulnerable.
* Only give information on a 'need to know' basis.
* If you are a victim, seek help immediately by ringing 999.
I also invite any member of the business community with concerns to contact their local crime prevention officer if they wish to know more about the overall threat posed by tiger kidnaps and to hear some of the practical steps that they can take to reduce the risks to their livelihood, themselves and their employees.
By working together, we can reduce the threat, take criminals off the streets and create a safer festive season for everyone.