Wednesday, May 5, 1999

Y2K: Police
say cash safer
in the bank

Financial institutions and
HPD urge the public not to
keep a stash of cash for
the end of the year

By Christine Donnelly


Honolulu police want local banks to do a better job of getting the word out to customers: Hoarding cash because of Y2K fears is dangerous to your wealth.

"It's just not smart to keep a lot of cash around. Criminals ... see this as one big opportunity," said Assistant Police Chief Eugene Uemura. "We're worried about home invasion robberies at the end of the year."

Uemura said financial institutions have sent the public a mixed message by saying they expect no major Y2K-related disruptions but also that extra cash reserves will be available for customers who want a cushion.

"You need to come right out and say, 'Your money is safe. Leave it in the bank,' " Uemura told industry representatives at a forum yesterday on the Y2K readiness of Hawaii's financial services industry.

Industry representatives responded that they have done just that, backed by outside regulators who confirm the industry is about the best prepared of any in the United States for the so-called millennium bug.

"We say it over and over. But we'll do even more to get that message out in the coming months," said Michael R. Curtis, Bank of Hawaii vice president and manager of its Year 2000 program.

An upcoming public awareness campaign, including all federally insured banks and savings and loans in Hawaii, will have radio, TV and newspaper announcements explaining what the industry has done to ensure that transactions -- whether online, by automated teller machine or in-person at the branch -- proceed normally, Curtis said. Y2K information already is posted at many branches and automated teller machines and is inserted in customers' statements.

Community and professional groups also can schedule speakers on the topic by calling Rodney Shinkawa of the Hawaii Bankers Association at 524-5161.

HPD's Uemura said any New Year's holiday is busy for police, with fireworks and out-of-hand parties perennial problems. "In 1999, we've also got this. We're just trying to reduce the chance of people being victims," he said, adding there was no evidence of particular burglaries already being planned.

"What we do know is criminals are opportunistic, so prevention is the best strategy."

Billions of dollars are being spent worldwide to combat the so-called "Y2K bug," which stems from the trouble some computer hardware and software systems may have deciphering data dated the year 2000.

All the local representatives at yesterday's forum said their companies have the problem well in hand and they expect no major disruptions to customers.

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