Bank of Montreal posts guards at the entrance to its branches on a two-week rotation. From Vancouver’s Chinatown to Toronto’s Lakeshore, the appearance of a uniformed guard on the sidewalk beside the front door sends a signal that
> the neighbourhood is unsafe
> the police are unable to serve or protect, and
> the place where its customers bank is not secure.
When I asked the tellers why, I was cheerily told “To make you feel safe.” I told them it did not, that it made me feel angry at the Bank.
When I asked an assistant manager why, I was told there’d been an alarm on the weekend that there had been movement on the bank roof. On the weekend, the bank was closed. A robber coming through the roof would not attempt such a gambit during daylight business hours, which is when the BMO rent-a-cop stands by the front door.
When I asked the guard herself why she was there, she replied “I don’t know.” When I asked her what instructions had been given, she answered “Just to watch out for suspicious people.”
A few moments later, a man carrying four rolled-up carpets walked past her, unchallenged, into the branch. A rolled up carpet is a clever way to carry a shotgun, as part of an organized hoist, while looking like a tradesman replacing the soiled runners with cleaned ones.
I asked the carpet man, since he evidently had a service contract for many BMO branches, why he thought there was a guard outside.
“It’s the neighbourhood,” he replied. “It’s rough here.”
“Why do you say that?” I challenged. “I’ve lived here thirty years. There’s been no bank robbery. There’ve been no store robberies. This community has the lowest crime rate in the entire metropolitan area.”
“I didn’t know that,” the clean carpet man replied. “I just figured it was a bad neighbourhood because of the guard.”
So I’ve asked the Bank of Montreal to explain in writing why it pays for ineffective private security officers who stand around like extras on a film set, conveying the impression its branches are unsafe, the neighbourhood is crime-riddled, and the police force of our city can’t be relied on to respond to the silent alarms any of its branches can use to call the professional security force should the need arise.