Tips for Money Service Operators (MSO)

Crime Matters

Crime Prevention Bureau(CPB)


In many MSO businesses, front-line employees are at risk from violent incidents. In most operations, the public has free and easy access to the MSO premises and employees frequently need to deal with people they do not know. In addition, MSO businesses typically keep cash readily available and remain open for extended hours.

Key risks

The following key risks may be faced by many MSO businesses:

  • Robbery and assault in which a knife, paper cutter, pistol like object (PLO), flammable liquid, bomb threat, written note or verbal threats may be used; and
  • Abusive and difficult customers.

When a potentially violent incident occurs, it is critical that employees understand that their safety is the first priority.

Risk Controls

Retailers can reduce the potential for robbery and violence through a combination of physical and procedural control measures, which may include the following:

  • Careful  premises layout and design;
  • Use of security devices — general and personal;
  • Employee education and training; and
  • Employee scheduling and procedures for working alone.

The most effective combination of control measures will vary depending upon the location, and individual business practices. Regional Crime Prevention Officers can assist MSO business operators to come up with effective combinations of controls measures.

The following advice aims to provide practical guidance on how to tackle violent situations, and can be adapted to suit individual needs. Where building work is involved, advice from the Fire Services Department and Buildings Department should be sought first.

Physical controls

Physical controls may include the following:

  • Ballistic and/or manual attack resistant enclosures consisting of walls, doors, counter, security glazing and cash scoops/ drop tray partitions that separate the teller from customers;
  • Access controls using single leaf doors in an airlock/ man trap configuration to separate public access from the teller area, and controlled so that both doors cannot be opened at the same time;
  • Use signs inside and outside the premises to emphasize there is limited cash on hand and employee inaccessibility to the safe;
  • Good interior and exterior lighting; and
  • Security CCTV surveillance cameras.

Procedural controls

Procedural controls include work procedures, scheduling and training. MSO owners ought to do the following:

  • Provide employees with specific training on handling robbery and violent situations;
  • Provide specific procedures for higher-risk situations like at opening, closing, and for handling cash including cash surrender and panic alarm activation;
  • Provide specific written procedures for working alone; and
  • Consider employees scheduling i.e. how many staff are on shift.

MSO design/layout

Poor layout and counter design can all make customers less visible and staff and cash more accessible. Consider using the following MSO design features and devices to strengthen security:

  • Ballistic and/or manual attack resistant full length glazed partitions, counters with drop trays, as well as walls, and doors to keep employees out of reach of the customers;
  • A safe with a time lock to store cash and other valuables;
  • Raise flooring to allow employees clear views;
  • A secure refuge area such as a lockable office;
  • Mirrors that allow employees to see who is nearby or on approaches to the premises;
  • Alarms to alert employees when someone has approached the premises;
  • Visible CCTV surveillance cameras to deter thieves and record transaction activities;
  • Panic alarms: on the floor and tripped by foot, wired to a money clip in the till, hidden under the counter or inside an office to summon help in an emergency;
  • Good lighting both inside and outside the premises, especially near entrances and exits;
  • Security guards as a visible deterrent; and
  • Signage advertising controls such as “Security cameras in use” to deter thieves.

Preventing Violence

Activities such as, opening and closing, handling money and working alone carry a greater risk of robbery and violence than other activities. MSO owners should develop safe work procedures to reduce the risk of violence and robbery, such as:

Opening and Closing

  • Specific opening and closing procedures;
  • Working in pairs especially at the end of a shift; and
  • No customers are around if handling cash and all entrances and exits are secure and locked.

Handling Money

  • Make sure cash handling areas are located away from entrances and exits;
  • Removing cash from teller drawers when it reaches a predetermined amount;
  • Place large amounts in a drop box, safe, or strong room that is out of sight ;
  • Fit counter safes with time-delay locks; and
  • Ensure that employees comply with guidelines when making bank deposits, such as:

    • Avoid making bank deposits at night;
    • Vary the time and route for making deposits;
    • Do not carry money in bags that make it obvious you are carrying cash or that are marked with the company logo; and
    • Make deposits with a co-worker, if possible.

Working alone

From a crime prevention perspective working alone is not recommended. However, should this be unavoidable procedures for working alone should be developed and include the following:

  • Specific time intervals during the shift when someone will check the well-being of staff;
  • A specific end of the shift check; and
  • Actions that will be taken if the employee cannot be contacted or does not phone in at the appropriate time.

Employees working alone should follow guidelines, such as:

  • Offer a friendly greeting to customers;
  • Make direct eye contact but do not stare as prolonged eye contact, especially if there is a group, may be seen as a challenge or confrontational;
  • Watch out for anyone who is loitering around the MSO;
  • Ensure that emergency phone numbers are easily accessible;
  • Do not leave back doors open and unattended; and
  • Stay alert and call the police if you see any suspicious activity or people.

Written procedures should not be complicated and focus on minimizing the risk for employees. Including MSO staff in the process of developing procedures for minimizing risk is strongly recommended because employees often know more about the risks, and have good ideas about how to reduce them.