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Bank Robbery Activity Still On The Rise

Increases in Numbers and Violence Alarm Security Officers
The opening procedure was done exactly as it should have been. One employee went inside and completed the search through, came out past the door, gave the "OK" sign to her partner in the car and went back in. The employee in the car turned off the motor, got out and started for the door. A well dressed black man, (suit and tie) carrying a briefcase walked towards her, evidently acting as though he wanted to know when the bank would be open.

Just as they both reached the door, he pulled out a gun.

Entering with the second employee, he forced them to open the safe, telling one she had until he counted down from ten to get it open before he would shoot her. He then tied them both up. He emptied the cash from the safe into his briefcase, and also took the driver's license and checkbook out of each of the two women's handbags, telling them that he was taking them so he'd know where to find them if something went wrong.

One of the local police officers happened to be passing and saw the first employee initially enter the building. Shortly afterward he was radioed and dispatched to the banking office by his department because they had received an alarm. Their alarm went off because the two employees did not disarm the office alarm when they entered. The police department tried to call the office, but the gunman wouldn't let the women answer.

The police officer responded by parking his car and walking up to the door of the office and pushing it open. The intruder, standing by a desk, told him to "Come on in," and waved him inside. Fortunately, the police officer noticed the feet of one of the employees on the floor behind the counter. He quickly backed out and ran, diving into a ditch when the gunman started firing at him from the door of the office. After the police officer was out of sight, the thief went back in, grabbed his briefcase, and escaped.

All this took place in Georgia just a few weeks ago. But the scenario is the same as we heard last year in Louisiana.

Overnight Wait
And there is a new method of night time break-ins reported. In these cases the thieves break through the roof of the overhang over the ATM, entering the branch office above the ceiling. The crooks then wait there until the vault is open in the morning before dropping down into the branch. They are able to do this undetected because in many offices there is no motion alarm in the area between the ceiling and the roof.

In another overnight wait, officials suspect entry was made through the ceiling tiles in the bathroom during the day, and the robber waited on top of the vault all night, dropping down after the vault door was opened in the morning.

In some of these robberies, in North Carolina, employees were abused by the robbers before they left. We know of four of this type of robbery in that state within a 60 day period. To date none of the perpetrators have been caught.

In New Jersey, in May, the hoods simply ran in the front door and shot up the whole branch in broad daylight, terrifying employees and customers alike. They have not been caught. Our contacts on the west coast said robberies slacked off for awhile, but they are now on the rise again. They are expecting the worst.

Crime Activity Increasing
We've noticed a marked increase in our calls from subscribers reporting these and other kinds of robbery. While statistics show crime to be going down, bank robberies seem to be rising. Not only are bank robberies increasing in number but, in many cases, also in violence.

What If??
It's time to review your branch office opening and closing procedures - again - carefully. And time to ask managers to go over "what-if" scenarios with branch employees. What if you pulled into the lot and saw a strange van there? What if the all-clear signal wasn't set? What if the drive-up window teller's car is in the lot, but the drive-up window isn't open 30 minutes later? What if you were checking the bathrooms during closing procedures and noticed a ceiling tile moved and a shoe print on the toilet seat? What if a copier repairman knocks on the window before opening time and wants to come in to "fix" your copier? What if a strange police officer parked in your lot to "make sure all you folks get in OK" asks if you have coffee on? What if you noticed someone standing in the branch appearing to check cameras, doors, entries - that you got "that" feeling about while you were watching?

Discuss what you would do in each of these cases. And encourage the staff to come up with their own "what-if's" and ideas on how to make entry and exit safer. There has never been a more important time for communication with the front line. Also, security officers, it's important to talk to your local police departments about proper response to an alarm.

There is no use pretending that it "can't happen here" in any town, state or location - urban or rural. Bank robbery is serious business, and it's happening all around you. It most assuredly can happen to you.

Thanks to our "southern" reporter, Brooke Blake and to other subscribers who have been helping to keep us up to date on what is happening on the robbery scene.

Copyright © 1998 Bankers' Hotline. Originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline, Vol. 8, No. 7, 7/98

First published on 07/01/1998

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