We have 21 branches, and we think we have a very successful robbery prevention program. The article regarding three repeat robberies at the same branch was unfortunate [Jan. 26, page 1].
Six years ago we had six robberies in one year. We were concerned that after 9/11 the FBI had switched its attention from bank robberies to terrorism. We felt like we were being targeted by robbers. We felt our staff and members were at risk. But what could we do? Here is a list of some of the things we did that significantly reduced our robbery risk.
We formed a task force of local credit unions, banks and law enforcement. The group shares all robbery photos. We get those photos the day of the robbery and share them with our staff so that they can be on the alert for the bad guys who often inspect the branch before they rob it.
We developed a risk matrix for each office with the help of law enforcement. The branches were rated from highest to lowest robbery risk.
We installed bandit barriers in the high-risk branches. We have never had a robbery in one of those branches since we installed the barriers.
We installed a pass-card device on the front door of the low-risk branches. Members can open the door using their ATM card or the staff at our advanced service counter opens the door using a remote switch.
We put in place a no hats, sunglasses or hoods policy in all of our branches.
We installed teller cash machines at all teller stations. Tellers keep very little cash in their cash drawers-just bait money and very little else. Branches keep no vault cash, other than bagged coin from our coin machines. All cash is in the ATMs or teller cash machines.
We installed full-color high definition video cameras in all branches to cover every work station and all entrances and exits.
We only have one entrance at each branch and that entrance is covered by staff at an advanced service counter. No one enters or leaves the branch without being acknowledged by staff.
We regularly practice robbery procedures with the staff.
Our experience tells us that if robbers get a lot of cash, they will be back. We believe that the least defended branches are the ones that are robbed.
The robber knows he has about three minutes to complete the robbery. If your tellers are behind barriers and within the view of cameras and your staff greets all members and asks them to shed anything that would obscure a clear view of their face then you will be the best defended branch in your area. We know that anyone who robs our branches will go home with not much more than the bait money. We make a very unattractive target.
I recommend that credit unions harden their branches and robbers will go someplace else.
SAFE Credit Union
North Highlands, Calif.