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Robbery Deterrent Measures

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What is the best robbery deterrent, bullet-resistant glass, armed guards, or off-duty law enforcement?

Great question. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. That said, we find that the use of bullet-resistant glass is preferable in most situations. It is widely recognized that criminals seek to exploit the easiest opportunities. All three options ‘harden the target’ by providing viable crime mitigation options for banking centers – especially those where the risk of robbery is high. Why then would we lean towards the bullet resistant-glass approach?

The primary return on investment indicates that the bullet-resistant glass is the most affordable option than armed guards or off-duty police officers, without considering any other factors.

  • According to Total Security Solutions, a custom design for a large bank in a major US city, with four doors, multiple teller windows, yards of bullet-resistant panels, and custom hardware can run upwards of $160,000.
  • relates that bill rates for armed security officers average $35 per hour or $2,100 per week for a branch office open ten hours a day for six days per week. The annual costs can exceed $100,000 per year.
  • Hiring off-duty police officers cost an average of $62 per hour, according to websites, for large and medium-sized cities across the country. The weekly costs for the same branch open ten hours a day for six days per week will run $3,720 or over $193,000 per year.

Installing bullet-resistant glass has proven to be relatively risk-free. (The bandit-barriers can also form an effective shield against COVID for bank employees.) Some contend that bullet-resistant glass places customers at higher risk of injury or of being taken hostage. However, the bank robbery statistics suggest otherwise. The majority of injuries and hostages taken during bank robberies have been to employees.

Insurance Risk Managers generally agree that the presence of guns translates to increased dangers, even when those wielding the weapons are trained, professional bank guards or off-duty police officers. Lawsuits arising out of an innocent bystander’s injury or death resulting from a gunfight in a bank lobby can be catastrophic. The losses associated with such an event would significantly exceed the money lost in an average bank robbery. Furthermore, an analysis of FBI bank crimes data by the Center for Investigative Reporting disclosed that the presence of armed security during bank robberies increased the likelihood of a violent event by threefold.

According to Guide No. 48, The Problem of Bank Robbery, published by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing at Arizona State University, there is no evidence that every bank or branch office needs to adopt the same rigorous and expensive crime prevention practices. We agree. Only banks at higher risk of robbery should implement more aggressive crime mitigation strategies such as bullet-resistant glass, armed security guards, or off-duty police officers. In our opinion, bullet-resistant glass is the preferable solution for most situations because it offers the lowest long-term costs and minimizes overall risk.

This Q&A originally appeared in Bankers' Hotline. For more information, sample issues, and to subscribe, click here or email

First published on 11/14/2021

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