MADISON, Wis. -- Underscoring the close-knit ties among financial institutions in fighting crime, the Wisconsin Bankers Association announced a rare $10,000 reward offer to help solve a Sept. 26 kidnap and robbery at a Milwaukee credit union.
The reward offer was a welcome yet stunning reaching-out to Wisconsin CUs to help stem the growing robbery rate at banks and CUs across the state.
In a press release, the Wisconsin trade group said it is the first time the reward has been offered to what it called "a non-bank institution" and reflects a message it wants delivered "that such actions against any financial institution will not be tolerated."
The reward of cash, to be drawn from the WBA's Robbery Reward Fund, was extended, said a spokesman, in light of banking's own problems with robbery/kidnapping including what it called a "similar situation at the Bank of Elmwood in February 2006."
"The WBA wants its members not only to help catch those responsible but a kidnapping and subsequent robbery such as occurred in Racine is reprehensible," said the spokesman.
The WBA said it alerted both the public and law enforcement on Oct. 1 to the kidnapping and robbery of the Landmark Credit Union employee and her son from the CU branch located in Racine, a southeast Wisconsin city.
Along with banks in the area, the Landmark branch, formerly Belle City Credit Union, merged recently into the Milwaukee CU, has over the years been the target of robberies because of its proximity to an interstate.
Regarding the reward, the WBA said the fund has normally been at $5,000, but was increased Oct. 1 to $10,000 to handle the CU case.
A spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Credit Union League said CUs heartily applaud the unusual action by the bankers reflecting the idea that "while we're different institutions, security is the great equalizer."
The league is currently exploring setting up a reward offer and a fund similar to that of bankers.
The WBA, through its President/CEO Kurt Bauer, said it contacted the league earlier in the week about coordinating press coverage and a joint reward venture.
In its press release, the WBA said its reward fund
dedicated to distributing funds to apprehend criminals was established in 1994.
"The safety of all financial institution employees and customers is our number one priority and this is the first step to ensuring that," said Bauer.
It asked members of the public with information about the Racine abduction and CU robbery to contact police departments in Racine and Caledonia as well as the FBI.