(TRINIDAD GUARDIAN) – A mad rush across the country yesterday as citizens defied the advice of the Central Bank Governor Alvin Hilaire and rushed to banks across the country to change their old hundred dollar bills to the new Polymer hundred dollar note.
The mad frenzy saw lines snaking around corners in Port of Spain and San Fernando causing both human and vehicular traffic as curious motorists slowed down. The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) confirmed it had increased mobile and foot patrols in the vicinity of banking locations for the protection of citizens who went to change their notes.
As Day One of the release of the new polymer $100 bill began yesterday, thousands of eager citizens crowded the nation’s bank, standing in line from as early as 7 am.
From Princes Town to Port of Spain, they clutched their handbags close and waited. When the various financial institutions opened their doors at 8 am, the chaos began- with everyone rushing to get in first- almost as though the new bills were being handed out for free.
But the enthusiasm was not catching for everyone as many people complained that they were unable to conduct business unrelated to the new bill as the banks were too crowded.
Rushton Coker, who visited the Murray Street, Port of Spain branch of Republic Bank to conduct business on behalf of the company he is employed with, questioned why people were rushing to get their bills changed.
“There are very long lines, I don’t know what people rushing for really, they have a certain date to use out the old bills,” Coker said.
Gerard Snaggs, who visited the branch just to see what the fuss was about, said he anticipates a lot of problems in the coming weeks with the change of the notes.
“I just went to macko, I see the long lines so I turned back but I asked about it. If you watch the line is filled to by the door, look at people, to change this currency is going to be a problem,” Snaggs said.
He said he does not think the change over will be completed by the December 31st deadline.
Another customer, Melissa Johnson-Moore, was also deterred by the long lines and tried her luck at the ATM instead, withdrawing one $100 bill to see if she would get the new polymer note.
But she was disappointed although she vowed to return again today (Wednesday) to try her luck again.
“I tried but it was the same old, same old, they said they were going to put it in the banks yesterday and today the banks have millions of lines, you can’t get to the counter to even make a deposit. I went to the ATM and still got the old $100, I was hoping I would get to do a lil’ Whats app post, with the new hundred, but it didn’t work out,” she said.
In South Trinidad the situation was the same. Even as they stood in the rain waiting to change their $100 bills at the First Citizens Bank in Princes Town, banking clients yesterday expressed concern that the T&T Police Service was not providing enough security for them.
Along High Street, scores of people gathered in the rain and expressed concerns about the lack of security at the location. Even though the Princes Town Police station is located a short distance, not a single police officer was stationed near the bank when Guardian Media visited around 10 am.
One customer Micheal Green said he wanted a better security presence at all banks.
“I am very concerned because everyone standing there have no security and everybody has a bag of money. The rain is falling and if somebody comes now, snatch my bag and run now, what will I do? No police in the place.”
Another customer said she wanted better police patrols around the banks.”I am not afraid but I am concerned about the lack of security here,” she added.
Many of the customers said they did not want to be photographed in case they are targeted by criminals. Along High Street, San Fernando just after 9 am, lines inside the bank were unusually long.
TECU Credit Union Co-operative Society Limited, at Southern Main Road, Marabella, was also jam-packed with customers.
After midday yesterday, Police Commissioner Gary Griffith issued a statement saying police mobile and foot patrols were boosted around the banks and other financial institutions.
Police patrols increase
Griffith said Emergency Response, Task Force and Divisional Patrols were taking place across the nine policing divisions, to provide greater levels of safety and comfort, as people go about transacting their business at commercial banks.
Saying he was aware that criminal elements may want to target unsuspecting persons in the lines at banks, and he is giving an assurance that police officers are out in full force to safeguard members of the public, as they go about transacting their business at various commercial banks.
Griffith said, “The TTPS is aware that criminal elements may want to target unsuspecting persons in the lines at banks,” and that police officers are out in full force to safeguard members of the public, as they go about transacting their business.
In a related matter, quick work by officers of the Four Roads Police Station, Diego Martin resulted in the arrest of a 19-year-old man of La Resource Road, Laventille, minutes after her robbed a woman who was on her way to the bank.
The victim told police she was walking along the walkover of the Diego Martin highway around 11:15 am, when the man grabbed her bag which contained a quantity of cash before he fled on foot, along Cuthbert Circular.
A report was made and officers on patrol subsequently apprehended the suspect a short distance away.
The bag with the cash was also recovered from his possession.