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There's a Lesson in Here, Somewhere

John S. Burnett, Associate Editor

It's been said that learning from someone else's mistakes can be a lot less painful than learning from your own. That should surely be true when it comes to learning security techniques from another bank's holdup. We found two recent bank robberies that ought to provide some obvious suggestions on "what not to do."


Pearl, Mississippi
Employees at a Members Exchange Credit Union branch were duped into admitting two criminals before business hours on May 3. According to reports, the robbers, dressed as police officers, convinced the credit union employees they were there to retrieve a box containing anthrax from the branch's night drop. When the door was opened, the pair barged in, tied up the employees, and took a significant amount of cash, while an accomplice waited outside in a large SUV with a blue light on the dash.

Appearances can obviously be deceiving. A pre-opening police visit should normally result only from a call or alarm from the bank. Verifying with other employees that the police had been called should have been the first order of business. Once the employees realized no one had asked for the visit, they should have made a call to the police to check on the alleged purpose of the visit -- to pick up a parcel from the night drop. That call might have inspired the real cops to investigate. The delay may have even "spooked" the robbers and convinced them to leave without gaining access.


Staten Island, New York
A bank head teller's practice of having enough "ready cash" available for other tellers may have made the May 5 bank heist at the Richmond County Savings Bank more rewarding for the robber than it might have been otherwise.

News reports indicate a limping bank robber approached the branch's head teller and demanded all of her money. Police described the robbery as routine, "except for the amount taken," which was much larger than average for a bank holdup. The head teller reportedly had a lot of cash on hand because she had to make sure other tellers had enough for their needs.

Standard bank security practices involve keeping "backup cash" locked up and separate from "working cash." Without knowing the layout of the branch or where the reserve cash was kept, it's impossible to say exactly what ought to have been done differently. In general terms, however, the reserve cash would have been more secure in the branch's vault, rather than at the teller line, as it appears to have been.

First published on BankersOnline.com May 2007

First published on 05/01/2007

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