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Moving the goods - Italian-style.


OVER 600 YEARS ago the first bankers in the world--the Peruzzis, Strozzis, and Bardis of Florence, Italy, and the Fuggers of Innsbruck, Austria--were already transferring millions of gold florins and silver talers throughout Europe as loans or payments on behalf of their crowned customers. These valuables were transported by carriage under the supervision of a few hired, armed men because of the threat of bandits. This situation started the development of modern security methods and resources.

Today's sociologists maintain that human behavior has changed as much in the last 50 years as it did in the last four centuries. They attribute this phenomenon to the rate of change in technology. This may be true for most human activities, but it is hard to believe that it applies to decision-making processes in the transferring of valuables in Italy. It was not until the end of the 1960s that banking institutions in Italy started employing the services of organizations specializing in that type of operation.

Until 20 years ago, banking institutions had been using their own nonspecialized personnel, almost always unarmed, to perform all operations of funds transfer to and from other bank agencies in and out of town as well as for the Bank of Italy. As criminal actions became more frequent, unarmored vehicles continued to be used to transport these funds, but they were escorted by the police when those forces were available.

The expression transfer of valuables applies to the physical transfer of objects having an intrinsic value (gold, jewels, precious metals) or representing a value (paper money, bonds, foreign currency) that takes place under safeguarded conditions on external routes.

Most such services are performed with armored trucks and armed personnel. Regular airliners and private planes are also used to transport valuables long distances or to islands. In the latter case, motor boats are sometimes used for short distances or the armored trucks are boarded on a regular liner.

Valuables are transferred in sealed packages, and their value is declared only for insurance purposes. Armored truck services for the transfer of valuables are also provided to supermarkets, cash-and-carry stores, highway toll stations, jewelry stores, and other businesses that handle high volumes of cash especially when banks are closed.

Security companies specializing in the transfer of valuables in Italy were created for the following reasons:

] the increased volume of business and consequently larger circulation of currency and other valuables

] the increase in the crime rate and the use of extreme violence

] the police forces' slow responses to requests for bank vehicle protection

] union pressure on banking institutions at the request of transportation workers

] the need to handle transfers in a cost-efficient manner

UNLIKE OTHER EUROPEAN COUNTRIES, Italy has passed no laws to regulate the transfer of valuables. These requirements would concern armored truck technical specifications, radio networks and communications with control centers, weapons for security officers, liability insurance against possible damage to third parties in case of accidents, and hiring and training personnel.

In each province the local authorities issue licenses for the transportation of valuables. These licenses contain general guidelines concerning disciplinary control of security officers rather than focusing on the qualifications of the companies applying for license. Consequently, in each of the 95 Italian provinces scores of licenses have been issued to small businesses with less than 10 employees.

Servizi Fiduciari SEFI S.p.A. (SEFI) was established in Milan in 1970 through the participation of all the major Italian banks. Its main purpose was to provide courier services for the transfer of valuables on behalf of third parties and especially for the participating banks. Today the company operates throughout Italy as well as abroad through correspondents.

SEFI has a work force of approximately 500 employees and owns a fleet of cars and armored trucks. From the start, the company has invested significant capital in its armored trucks as well as its technical infrastructures for the control and operation of its services.

The first armored trucks' design was based on the experiences shared by various participating banking institutions. Over the years, SEFI has continued to upgrade its vehicles through the use of more technically advanced materials and sophisticated safety devices. These devices were based on SEFI's daily operational experiences and with the help of the best experts in the field.

In addition, SEFI has developed a radio network for the surveillance of its armored trucks. The network allows the operators at the control station to track the movements of the trucks and monitor the types of transactions under way. The network also enables them to notify customers of the trucks' arrival and automatically warn the vehicle operator and the police if a threatening situation develops.

The radio network consists of

] a permanent radio station (transmitter and receiver) at the control center,

] a mobile radio station (transmitter and receiver) on the trucks, and

] permanent radio stations at the banks and police stations.

The radio network provides the following capabilities:

] The control station can monitor the journey of the armored trucks, notify bank tellers of upcoming transactions, and keep directly in touch with the police.

] The armored trucks can communicate with the control station to send messages as required. (The use of non-standard messages is strictly limited to cases of severe necessity.)

] Bank tellers are notified by the control station of the arrival of the armored trucks. By avoiding the use of public telephone lines and using a system of coded radio messages instead, it is possible to handle a large number of vehicles at the same time with a high level of safety and efficiency.

SPECIFIC OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES are used when picking up and delivering valuables. Pick-up orders from major customers, such as main bank cashiers, are placed with SEFI via telephones equipped with special coding devices (cryptophonic devices) to avoid interception.

When collecting valuables, the courier's responsibility begins when its representative signs the receipt after checking the integrity of the packages' seals. The courier company's responsibility for the valuables ceases as soon as the recipient receives them, verifies the contents, and signs the receipt. To facilitate operations, SEFI offers its customers the maximum level of insurance coverage during the transfer and while the valuables are kept in the vaults.

When valuables are being delivered, the customer's identity must be disclosed and validated before the delivery. The arrival of the truck is announced by a special radio signal to the bank's receiver. The representative on duty at the bank approaches the truck and inserts his or her identification (ID) card through the slot provided and then walks back inside the bank.

The armored truck crew checks the ID card with an ID card reader to verify the authenticity of the card and matches the code number with the one appearing on the transaction voucher. If everything is fine, the transfer of the valuables begins.

This procedure allows the truck crew to check if operations are normal inside the bank facility in addition to verifying the identity of the recipient. If the bank representative walks to the truck and back to the bank, there should be no reason to suspect any criminal action. Therefore, the delivery of the valuables may take place. This procedure is not followed in low-risk locations.

For unusually difficult deliveries, SEFI procedures require the additional use of special portable radios. These radios allow the carriers of the valuables to signal emergency situations without necessarily being in direct sight of the truck and to secure help from the area supervisor. (An area supervisor is a sworn security officer who operates from a vehicle in radio contact with the control station and has the ability to arrive at the customer's location before the armored truck. He or she supports an average of eight to 10 trucks.) In addition to ensuring that everything is normal before proceeding with the delivery, radio use protects the carriers of the valuables and the security officers involved.

SEFI's operational procedures require a different crew for each shift. Routes and schedules are also constantly changed. Those involved in the transfer of valuables are informed of the itinerary and identity of their fellow crew members only moments prior to departure.

To ensure better coordination of its services, SEFI has developed special vaults, which are watched 24 hours a day, at the control stations in large Italian cities. These vaults house valuables that are collected as excess from banks away from the center of town or group valuables collected at night from the main bank cashiers. The valuables are stored in these vaults until they are sent to their destination by armored trucks on the following day. This procedure enables banks access to necessary funds early in the morning to carry out their transactions while reducing the risk of holding valuables after hours.

IN FULL COMPLIANCE WITH THE requirements regulating personnel hiring, SEFI's hiring process includes personal interviews, aptitude tests, physical examinations, and driving tests to ensure each candidate is physically suitable for the job. For example, candidates with vision or hearing impairments cannot be hired. All candidates must take and pass a neuropsychological exam to rule out symptoms of claustrophobia. They must also have satisfied military service obligations. Candidates must not have any pending penal action against them nor unusually onerous financial burdens.

The personnel recruiter is responsible for screening the information provided in the form completed by each candidate. The recruiter must also carefully check to ensure its truthfulness. Particularly important are the candidate's marital status, place of residence, and former employment and reasons for change. The candidate's general disposition and qualities denoting aptitude for the job, such as self-control, carefulness, psychological stability, and sense of responsibility as well as reflexes are also evaluated.

Once hired, the new employee joins the document transfer department and is assigned to a tutor for on-the-job training. At this time the new hire learns operational procedures. The tutor is specifically responsible for helping the new hire achieve the necessary level of knowledge and ability in the shortest possible time.

The new employee is also provided an ID card showing a specimen of his or her signature. A facsimile of this signature is also sent to all customers for verification purposes. The employer applies to the local authorities to obtain the sworn security officer certification and the necessary license for the employee to carry a gun.

As soon as the certification and the license have been issued and the new employee has completed gun training (approximately three months), he or she then starts training for the transfer of valuables. An overview is given to the new hire to explain in depth the employer's expectations as well as the employee's rights. This is done to provide him or her with a good understanding of what the transfer of valuables is all about. Other topics that are dealt with include safety measures that the individual must apply in various situations (assaults, truck breakdown, etc.) while carrying out assigned duties and how to deal with the public and customers.

Also included in the training are operational procedures to be followed in carrying out one's duties. These include preparing paperwork related to the transfer of valuables (route maps, pick up and delivery receipt forms) or the use of the vehicles (journal, gas receipts, records of breakdowns and traffic accidents). These documents must be prepared with extreme accuracy and sufficient details since the ultimate liability of the integrity of the packages rests on the employer.

The training also covers driving an armored truck. This is quite different from driving a regular car in that a security officer must watch for suspicious vehicles, be alert for possible aggression, be able to use radio and security devices in the truck, be familiar with the routes, and maintain highly professional conduct even in the most difficult traffic situations.

In addition to knowing regulations and operational procedures, the security officer must also learn to speak clearly and calmly. Messages must be clear and precise in order to avoid a disaster.

At the end of the training, the new hire is officially assigned to the valuables transfer department and becomes a full-fledged crew member. Employees assigned to the transfer of valuables wear a company uniform, which must be approved by the Comando Militare Territoriale (jurisdictional military authority) and are provided with an automatic Beretta as well as a bullet-proof vest.

Emphasis is put on keeping personnel interested in their jobs while performing their daily operations. Supervisory staff, therefore, constantly refresh the new hire's initial training in the use of radio and weapons and comment on successful and failed attacks to test the reactions of the crew with regard to instructions for the pickup and delivery of valuables. Personnel files of active employees are also reviewed from time to time to make sure changes in personnel or financial status are noted.

THE GREATEST RISK IN TRANSFERRING valuables is sidewalk danger. The expression sidewalk danger refers not only to the distance between the truck and the entrance to the bank but also to the distance inside the building between the door and where the valuables are to be delivered or picked up.

Unfortunately, some customers demand that deliveries take place consistently on the same days and at the same times. The customer is usually asked to arrange an out-of-sight place for pickups and deliveries. This procedure should be followed since thieves will renounce their attack plans if truck schedules are unpredictable and the value of the objects being transferred cannot be estimated.

Professional thieves prepare their attacks based on painstaking observations of places and habits and on information that is sometimes easily available due to negligence on the part of the courier or the customer.

Obviously, situations vary from country to country and so do transfer methods. Consequently, thieves adjust their tactics to the ability of the crew to defend itself. For example, in England, where the security officers are unarmed, their lack of defense makes it very difficult for them to repel an attack.

Attempts have been made to reduce sidewalk danger through the use of special devices such as remote control arms, which are operated from inside the truck; steel-wired packages; rotating compasses; and valuables carts. Yet none of these so far have produced positive results due to their extreme complexity and lack of practicality. In addition, the use of such devices results in longer execution times, not to mention the considerable increase in cost.

The best results in reducing sidewalk danger are obtained by changing schedules and routes, by making speedy transactions, and by protecting information concerning transfers to clients.

Banks are usually located in buildings whose basic structure cannot be easily modified--due to planning and zoning regulations--to make them more compatible with the courier's needs. Only with new buildings is it possible to develop modifications that would result in safer transfers. To improve the security of the transfer of valuables, the customer's and the courier's technical staffs must work hard to share experiences from which they can both benefit.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Maddalone, Raffaele
Publication:Security Management
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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