back to article Police block roads to stop tech support chap 'robbing a bank'

Welcome again to On-Call, The Register's Friday reader-contributed tales of tech support jobs gone wrong. We're mining a bit of a vein of emergency-services-related stories of late, so let's keep that going by meeting "James", who sent us a story from "way back in the 1990s when I was sent to a small branch of a foreign bank …

Page:

  1. Mycho Silver badge

    I got confused in a hospital once and pressed the medical emergency button by mistake, but I cancelled it before anything happenned because it didn't do what I expected. All I got was a 'what happenned?' and I lied about knocking something against it.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Must have been a quite impressive experience

    Personally I thought it was always a button under the desk or on the side. I would have been very careful about not brushing against that. But a bar on the floor ? I'm not sure I would have made the relationship with the alarm.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

      If the bar were on the path to the vault (or in the path to the back) then anybody who is being forced along at gunpoint can just stand on it to trigger the alarm. Very clever idea now that I think about it.

      Whoever came up with it deserves a pint -->

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

        I worked somewhere temporarily that had just installed a VOIP system and people were very impressed and excited with the new handsets. It was about a day after the system had been fully working that happened to be a Saturday. I was working in the head office on something urgent but feeling peckish decided to go out and get a bite to eat. As I was walking to the lift I heard a few police sirens quite close by. When I made it to reception there were four burly coppers standing there talking to the security guards. They were responding to a panic button activation that they had received. I was one of three people working in the building and none of us had pressed anything apparently. I wasn't even aware there were panic buttons.

        The Old Bill weren't having this because they could identify the panic button call as having come from this address. I thought for a second and said that we'd just had a new phone system installed. I wasn't involved in that but it was possible that the offices around the country were having their calls routed through the head office. The caller ID would still give the local number but the they'd join the PSTN in that building, hence why they were directed to that address. I suggested calling the regional offices to check if any of them had had an activation. After finishing my lunch I got back to find out that a builder in a regional office had accidentally triggered it whilst working. I never found out why they had panic alarms linked to the police but someone said that the firm occasionally did work for the Government which might have explained it.

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

      "Put your hands up" is usually the first demand, is it not?

      Thus button-under-counter is probably a really bad idea.

      1. lglethal Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

        Great so not only do I have to worry about buttons under desks but now I have to worry about metal bars on floors. What am I supposed to say now? Put your hands up, jump away from that metal bar and dont touch anything? Sounds bloody ridiculous. And how are they supposed to hand me the loot then? Lousy security people, making us honest bank robbers lives harder. It's just not on....

        --- Robber McGee

        1. Olivier2553

          Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

          What about "hands up and start floating one foot above the floor"?

          1. NBCanuck

            Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

            "What about "hands up and start floating one foot above the floor"?"

            Like the stance in Karate Kid? All tellers are now in full attack position!

            Oh.....hovering a foot above the floor, not just with one leg raised. Not as much fun reading it that way. :-(

        2. Nick Kew Silver badge

          @Robber McGee

          Since you don't know what emergency devices they might have to hand (or foot, knee, elbow, paunch, or whatever), best just to shoot them immediately and eliminate all such mechanisms.

          Dear bank, let me sell you the latest alarm. It's triggered by a member of your staff shedding blood, or being tasered so they're unable to set off the normal alarms. Oh, right, you already have it?

          1. Jonathon Green

            Re: @Robber McGee

            “...best just to shoot them immediately and eliminate all such mechanisms.”

            And then get caught out by a “dead man” function which triggers the alarm if at least one of a number of other hidden trigger devices isn’t activated at least every minute or so. :-)

            1. Jim Mitchell

              Re: @Robber McGee

              Give the staff heart rate tracking Fitbit type devices. If the rate goes to 0 or increases dramatically, either there is a medical emergency or a robbery.

        3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

          Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

          and don't forget to add "And dont say anything starting with "Hey Google" or "Alexa..."

          1. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

            Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

            Alexa? Or "Axhole, open the door yourself." I'd be moving towards the exit now, in my frock coat, but I'm mortally wounded. An immersive experience, in my own sanguinous fluid.

      2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

        @Lee D

        Not if it's of a suitable design (like a mushroom EMO one) that could be triggered using your leg (knee or thigh bash for examples)...

      3. rg287

        Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

        "Put your hands up" is usually the first demand, is it not?

        Thus button-under-counter is probably a really bad idea.

        Works fine. Have you not seen Kevin and Perry Go Large?

        1. Danny 14 Silver badge

          Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

          my wife worked in a building society that didnt have a panic alarm, they didnt have shutters either and had a standing order to just empty the lot for criminals. I thought it would be mandatory for silent alarms but apparently not. Times gone by eh.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

            > and had a standing order to just empty the lot for criminals.

            It is a useful delay tactic. You first have to commit an outrage, get caught, processed, judged and convicted, and only then can show up at the bank and get the contents of the safe; whereas I or any other non-convicted citizen¹ would just be denied it no matter how forcefully we insist upon it.

            ¹ Or if you are a bona fide criminal but forgot to bring along your proof of criminal records.

      4. Valerion

        Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

        "Put your hands up" is usually the first demand, is it not?

        Thus button-under-counter is probably a really bad idea.

        Don't most people have knees?

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

          "Don't most people have knees?"

          Would that make it a knee jerk reaction?

          I'm sorry I'll get my coat...

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Must have been a quite impressive experience

        > "Put your hands up" is usually the first demand, is it not?

        > Thus button-under-counter is probably a really bad idea.

        Ceiling-mounted toilet flush chain?

  3. derfer

    Also watch out for hidden alarms

    I was working earlier this year inspecting behind wall panelling in a government building. The panels lift up and out to give access to the void behind that had various services running through it.

    We got to one section of the building where all the panels had been screwed into place with a specialist security screws (all the previous panels had been unfixed and just lifted off). I spotted one panel in the middle of the area that had ordinary screws instead of security screws so undid these and lifted the panel off to look behind. There was an alarm sensor fitted to the back of the panel (apparently to all the panels in this area) and all I could see was a metal sheet with lots of warnings on it. An alarm went off and shortly after there was an armed response.

    I can speculate what was behind that metal panel but I'm not going to write it down in case big brother is watching.

    Needless to say I didn't remove any more panels that day.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Also watch out for hidden alarms

      Was it a sign that said "Beware of the leopard"?

      1. DailyLlama

        Re: Also watch out for hidden alarms

        Happy towel day!

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Also watch out for hidden alarms

      When I was a college student, and thus cheap labor for the computer science department, I was part of a group laying CAT-5 and fiber optics across ceilings.

      One day, we're cabling up the robotics lab when a squad of campus police come in, followed by the local county sheriff, all with guns drawn.

      Turns out we'd triggered a LOT of the sensors designed to protect the extremely expensive robots. Sensors that of course no one warned us about.

      1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

        Re: Also watch out for hidden alarms

        @Gene Cash

        "campus police" "guns drawn"

        so, you weren't at Oxford then?

    3. defiler Silver badge

      Re: Also watch out for hidden alarms

      @derfer

      I saw your name there and thought "I don't remember writing / doing that"... I'm glad it's the end of the week today. I think I need a break.

  4. silks

    ATM Fraud

    Worked a colleague from the company that runs the UK's ATM network. We'd invoked DR and close to the DR data centre was an ATM we could use for live testing. Police turned up due to the suspicious activity of my colleague repeatedly inserting bank cards in the early hours of the morning which took some explaining. No dramatic road blocks though :(

    1. Olivier2553

      Re: ATM Fraud

      Speaking about ATM, I once did a withdrawal at the ATM in front of a bank and noticed the computer part of the machine was not properly closed, it was unlocked and I could open it. There was a police boot about 50m away, but I doubt any one was watching.

      My guess is that some staff forgot to lock the machine after some work on it. I informed the central phone number of the bank and let it be.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn
        Coat

        Re: ATM Fraud

        Upgrading a banking server OS in the hours between one day & the next, I ignored what I assumed to be disgruntled locals at the ATM being down shouting.

        Only to find a few minutes later it was Brinks security & rather pissed\on the verge of settling the discussion at gunpoint as to why I was there (They should have been warned in advance & if I was turfed out onto the street temporarily while they did their bit in the safe they would have been hit with a penalty).

        Icon: Wheres me gun?

        1. Nick Kew Silver badge

          @The Oncoming Scorn

          Hmmm.

          When the securicor[1] vans come round, the staff are armoured and they go through elaborate security rituals for every door they pass through. Don't give the villains a chance to insert themselves into any move!

          When the geek enters a secure area to upgrade the software, or merely to service the ATM, are there any similar procedures? Or could a random person with the build of a bouncer and a determined attitude refuse to take No for an answer and enter with you when they let you in?

          [1] Other fortified vans are available.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @The Oncoming Scorn

            At one datacentre I once had to visit often, there were elaborate procedures for tech staff to gain access. Phone calls, ticket IDs, confirmation callbacks, and so on, taking ages.

            When the pizza delivery guy turned up, though, he was buzzed straight in.

  5. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    at least they turned up...

    My aunt had a gunman demand cash and after said alarm was triggered no plod or even the other staff battered an eyelid. Turns out no one expected an armed robbery in a sleepy seaside town.

    Now that resulted in a serious bollocking all round, (save for my aunt who's still twitchy over the ordeal years later but followed procedure to the letter)

    1. AbelSoul

      Re: at least they turned up...

      Indeed. Having spent five years living in "the Govanhill area of Glasgow" I'm mildly surprised the Rozzers appeared at all.

      1. Chris King Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: at least they turned up...

        I once went on a trip to the Kelvingrove Museum, and for some reason the coach driver took us through Govanhill.

        At traffic lights, a bunch of kids started smiling and waving. Instincively, other passengers smiled and waved back, but something triggered the "what's wrong with this picture ?" part of my brain and I turned to the guy sat next to me...

        Me: Do you see what I see ?

        Him: Yeah. Piles of stones at their feet.

        Me: Big, heavy, sharp ones too. You thinking what I'm thinking ?

        Him: Smile and wave, but get ready to duck if they stop ?

        Me: Pretty much.

        Icon, because possibility of flying glass.

        P.S.

        No windows were harmed in the telling of this story

    2. ridley

      Re: at least they turned up...

      In the late 90's i was running my own business and one day i needed to pay in at the bank. Parked in the bank car park, went into the bank, payed in went out and thought i need some fags. So i wandered off down the street to the newsagents.

      When i came back, plod was everywhere and especially around my car. They were very interested in having a chat with me, very interested.

      I was held for ages before being told anything about what was going on.

      It turned out that up the road a jewellers had been robbed and the owner sadly killed.

      Now where did i come in? The robbers had been seen in a high performance muscle car. I drove a TR7...

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: at least they turned up...

        I'll bet that's the first time anybody ever used "high performance muscle car" and "TR7" together in the same colophon.

        1. Putters

          Re: at least they turned up...

          Possibly not.

          Currently for sale

          https://m.carandclassic.co.uk/car/C994904

          1. jake Silver badge
            Pint

            Re: at least they turned up...

            That's no longer a TR7, Putters. That's a hand-built one-off, commonly called a "hot rod" in the vernacular.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Vauxhall Astra getaway car

        My first family car was a 1.6 astra automatic. It was stolen when I was doing an upgrade on a customer site. I realised this when I walked back to the car carrying 2 boxes of printer paper with the upgrade output and 12 open reel tapes containing the install media. In the space where I had last seen my car was now a black Capri. I still don't know why I did it but I bent down and looked under the car. I calmed on the insurance, eventually got the money through and bough another car. Many months later I was stopped by Len our head of security as 'some gentlemen need to talk to you' It turned out the 3 rather severe gents were from the CID and they grilled me about my location over 3 dates the previous year for about 10 minutes. My little astra had been used in 3 armed robberies. They were pressing me surprisingly hard and I was really beginning to sweat when I heard a noise behind me. I looked over to see Len collapsing behind the reception desk. It turns out nice urbane Len was a retired Inspector with a much more extreme sense of humour than I had previously realised.

  6. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Silent alarms

    One of the side issues in a former job was that we provided a few silent alarms. Not entirely silent as they broadcast a message on the police network. They were used in one-off situations where there was reason to expect a ...umm.... situation. One was a bank that was subject to armed robberies. I'm told the police got so slick about that one that armed robbers were met outside the bank and ushered straight into the police car without passers-by realising what was happening. More reliably I was told that at one time there were 4 lots of would-be robbers all awaiting trial.

    The police weren't always so slick. Another one was in a filling station which was repeatedly burgled. The police must have been told to go there on the alarm but not why. They rolled up, watched the burglars loading up their car and did nothing.

  7. Chris King Silver badge

    It happened over 20 years ago and besides, the machine is long dead...

    Starting at my previous job, I had to stay on late to fix a major network problem, and had closed the student labs earlier than usual.

    My PC started to have a bit of a smoke, so I decided to move it outside before things got any worse.

    Imagine the scene - the fire alarms go off, and I'm running out of a building with a PC billowing smoke, just as Mr Plod drives through the campus to deal with another incident.

    Let's just say that I faced some awkward questions, just as the machine finally caught fire. (It was old and chock-full of dust).

    One of the campus security guys then arrived on the scene, ran up to me and asked what had happened. He then grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the poor machine out of its misery, before wandering off to deal with the alarm.

    Satisfied that I appeared to have authority to run out of buildings with burning computers late at night, the coppers went on their way.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the police also used to deploy alarms that fed straight into their radio systems.

    In the days before tetra was introduced you would occasionally hear a repeated message over the air along the lines of...

    Police Alarm 432.... Police Alarm 432.... Police Alarm 432.... Police Alarm 432....

    nothing was ever reference by the control room to direct officers but all other jobs were dropped very quickly.

    I took it to mean that the officers on duty were aware of exactly what and where the alarm was attached to and there was a pre-planned response if it was triggered.

    1. GlenP Silver badge
      Unhappy

      the police also used to deploy alarms that fed straight into their radio systems

      We had one deployed at a company I worked for after two break ins to steal PCs. The robbers still managed to get in and out a third time! The police reckoned the toerags would be in-and-out in under 2 minutes so unless they happened to be very close there was little they could do.

      We employed a security guard from then on.

      1. The Oncoming Scorn
        Holmes

        A Long Time Ago

        It was security who was stealing laptops overnight (I was the last person on-site & no access to the stores department card swipe).

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        two break ins to steal PCs

        One company I worked at got ram-raided and a load of PCs got nicked. The thieves must have congratulated themselves right up until they tried to sell them

        I suspect that IBM PS/2 50z machines didn't have much value in 1999.

        (The thieves had ram-raided the side of the building being used as a dump for old machines before they were taken away to be recycled. There was a lot of seriously old kit stored there..)

    2. rg287

      the police also used to deploy alarms that fed straight into their radio systems.

      ...

      nothing was ever reference by the control room to direct officers but all other jobs were dropped very quickly.

      In a related vein I recall a school teacher who had been a Met Officer in a past life telling us of a weekend when he'd come across a fight that had spilled out of a pub and seemed to be growing as rival football fans from an opposing pub joined in. A bystander suggested that he should do something about it, but being on a lone foot patrol he wasn't about to wade into a mini-riot on his own. He tried to call it in, but on his older radio the control centre couldn't make him out over the background noise.

      So he pushed the Code 10 button. Code 10 was the panic button for "Officer down" and also engaged a locator signal to the control centre.

      Apparently within 4-5 minutes he had four panda cars, two district support units (~16 burly riot-clad officers), a couple of armed units, some traffic cops and a dog unit along with the obligatory ambulance all asking where the downed officer was.

      He was asked not to do that again unless it was actually a code 10.

      The sudden, noisy appearance of most of West London's on-duty Police apparently broke up the mini-riot without requiring any direct intervention.

      1. ExampleOne

        Sounds like the perfect way to deal with the situation: No one got hurt, the riot dissipated with no hassle.

        1. Jon 37

          He's the "boy who cried wolf". After doing that, if he was really injured and presses that button, they might not believe him which might slow the response significantly. If other people copy him and use the button inappropriately, it becomes useless for its original purpose.

          1. ridley

            Thats why good ones go up to 11.

      2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        A "Catch 22" if ever there was one...

        "being on a lone foot patrol he wasn't about to wade into a mini-riot on his own."

        Ironically, that course of action would have resulted in a genuine code 10.

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019