A TEAM of Ireland's former elite Army Rangers is training bank officials and millionaires on how to avoid tiger kidnappings and other hostage-style robberies.
Glenevin, which is training hundreds of Irish people with major concerns about their personal security, said "tiger" kidnappings had become the crime of the moment because staff members are the weakest link in any organisation.
Organising and planning a robbery whereby a criminal gang actually attempts to raid a bank premises has become incredibly difficult due to garda surveillance and enhanced security systems. However, gangs have started to target mid-level bank employees, who frequently have access to millions of euro.
Leo Harris, a former member of the Ranger wing and director of the firm, said: "From the criminal's point of view, the major weakness in the security system of any institution is the personnel and that is why we are seeing so many tiger raids.
"To break into a bank, the gang have to bypass sophisticated alarms and motion-sensor systems if they attempt a raid at night. To go in during broad daylight is even more risky."
However, he said that criminal gangs could be halted before a tiger raid ever takes place because of their reliance on surveillance.
"The weakness for the criminal is in the surveillance that he has to carry out and if employees have good awareness of this, they can protect themselves. The areas a vulnerable bank official should be looking at are personal security in their own home, suspicious vans on the road and bogus callers to either their door or on the telephone.
"With the most recent robbery, things will start to come back to those involved that appeared normal at the time, but may now seem suspicious."
Glenevin said each gang could be targeting half a dozen bank employees at one time.
"They thrive on people who slavishly follow a routine. They will strike when the family are all at home together or when one of them is on the move," said Harris.
"At the higher levels of criminality, they could spend four to five weeks in surveillance mode. Even the ones lower down the food chain will typically spend a week or two planning their operations."
Glenevin said that simple and obvious solutions would often force a tiger-raid gang to change their plan or to target another institution.
"At the upper end of the scale, we would go out and look at people's homes, their vehicles, their routines. We would make sure they lock down their house at night and take care when opening and closing doors," Harris said.
"People should watch out in particular for unasked-for phone callers, and not pass on personal information. A criminal gang can identify an address simply by calling and pretending to offer a broadband service and asking for the home owner."
If a bank employee or business person is unfortunate enough to find themselves in the midst of a tiger raid, the best course of action is often to do nothing.
Harris said: "Once you are in the midst of that robbery, self-preservation is the key. Tiger kidnappings have never resulted in a fatality in Europe in our experience and the person has to remember the criminals are there for money and nothing else.
"The most vulnerable stage of the whole operation is the start and the finish, entering the home and departing the scene. That is when the greatest risk is posed to the 'hostages'.
"When they come in the door, you need to do exactly what you are told. It will level down to a relative calm and they will have full control of the situation. They do not want any additional hassle or grief."
Glenevin said that tiger kidnappings are generally the domain of well-organised major criminal gangs and that former paramilitaries were using their training to help run them smoothly.
It also said that banks and institutions will invariably find it very difficult to pinpoint the "inside man" involved in tiger raids.
"It is very difficult to determine who was involved. The information can be passed on willingly in return for a small cut but it can also be picked up by loose talk in a pub or anywhere else," Harris said.
"You might also find that a member of staff might be having problems like gambling, or be involved in an affair, and be put under severe pressure to pass on information.
"Staff members need to know that the information they have is very valuable. They should invest in security for their homes – alarms, panic buttons, improved lighting, locked gates, monitoring, anything that will deflect attention from their home.
"They need to ensure they are not predictable and vary their routes and the car they use.
"If they feel they are being observed, they should call the gardaí immediately."