Safety deposit box shortage at Hong Kong banks sees rise in home safe sales

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 July, 2013, 3:59am

More people are stashing their jewellery, cash and other valuables in home safes rather than in safety deposit boxes due to a severe shortage at banks, but police say that is not the best idea.

Along with a spate of brazen daylight robberies, retailers say more people are buying safes to protect their possessions, forking out thousands for fire-proof vaults.

However, the crime prevention bureau has warned that home safes should be a short-term alternative for safeguarding valuables.

"A home safe should be viewed as a temporary means of securing valuables, not a permanent facility," a police spokesman said. "Long-term secure storage should be made at a professional safe deposit facility."

For months, a number of major banks have stopped taking applications for the boxes. There are more than 100 people on some waiting lists and a vacancy may not arise for years.

Rudolph Chow, director of manufacturer Guarda Safe, said sales had increased by 20 to 30 per cent in the past two years.

"We sell on average one to two safes per day through our showroom, but also have distributors," Chow said.

Most people spent HK$2,000 to HK$5,000, he said, which would buy a safe the size of a microwave and weigh up to 40kg.

Staff from speciality retailer Safewell, which has shops in Mong Kok, Wan Chai and Sha Tin, said sales had risen over the past two to three years because some banks were raising the rent for safety deposit boxes.

Retailer Safegear recently opened a store in Causeway Bay, adding to its original Mong Kok branch, to meet demand.

While there were no rules on the sale of safes, delivery and installation staff would be criminally liable if they conspired with any third party such as burglars to commit a crime, police said.

A police checklist on safes includes ensuring they meet insurance firm requirements and to regularly change the combination locks. "Since safes can only give you time, the installation of other security measures, such as intruder alarm systems, should be considered," police said.

This month, thieves netted about HK$2 million in diamonds and high-end watches in two separate daylight robberies in Fanling and Tai Po. In one case, the whole safe was removed.

Police figures show 1,129 reports of burglaries between January and April this year, down 250 cases year on year.