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ST. LOUIS, Mo. – To thwart would-be robbers who often wear various disguises to conceal their identities, effective May 20, credit unions and banks across the state here will ask consumers to remove hats, hoods, and sunglasses before coming inside their financial institution. The Missouri Credit Union Association (MCUA), Missouri Bankers Association, along with the FBI, the Missouri Highway Patrol, and local law enforcement agencies around the state are endorsing the “No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses” program. “The number of robberies committed in financial institutions is growing in Missouri and this is a simple way to tackle the issue,” said Rosie Holub, president/CEO of MCUA. “By removing hats, hoods, caps and sunglasses, consumers make it easier for staff and law enforcement to identify any would-be robbers, who often choose these items as a disguise.” People who refuse to comply with the dress code will still receive service but will be closely monitored inside the financial institution, FBI officials say. “Surveillance systems are wasted if you allow people to come in with disguises, which usually involves hats, hoods and sunglasses,” said FBI Special Agent Curtis Bryant. “Law enforcement needs good surveillance photos to catch these robbers.” The identity policy came about mainly because financial institutions here, particularly in the Springfield area, had been experiencing a stream of robberies – 14 in one year, more than double the national average. Within the first six months of having the dress code, Springfield financial institutions experienced only three robberies. Two of the three suspects followed the dress code, removed their disguises before committing the crime and were identified and caught shortly after, FBI officials reported. MCUA became involved along with other groups in October 2002 to launch a statewide campaign, and a series of meetings with FBI officials in January 2003 led to putting together a packet of materials including posters, signs and tent cards. Of the 176 credit unions in Missouri, 60 have placed orders for the signs, said Amy McLard, MCUA spokeswoman. Central Communications Credit Union has enforced the removal policy for nearly two years after struggling with a series of robberies from those walking into branches with masks on during Halloween, said Don Cooper, senior vice president of marketing. Vigilant, the credit union began posting clearly marked signs in the lobby windows asking for the removal hats and hoods “for the protection of our members.” While Cooper admits that the dress code may not be the sole reason for a decrease in robberies, he staunchly believes that would-be robbers are very aware that security cameras will be able to record more accurate images minus the disguises. “It makes sense,” Cooper said. “We didn’t set out to make this objectionable for anyone. Our latest surveys show that members are overwhelmingly pleased that we have this policy in place.” The same holds true for Telcomm Credit Union, which was spared becoming a victim of a string of robberies that occurred in the area some time back. “Members feel more secure when they see the signs posted,” said Don Ackerman, Telcomm’s president/CEO, adding that there hasn’t been any resistance since the credit union began the policy more than a year ago. “We don’t single out anyone, this allows us for better pictures on the surveillance cameras, overall, it’s been a positive thing,” Ackerman said. St. Louis Community Credit Union started posting its dress code signs in mid-March and there was some “initial resistance,” said Darrell Orr, senior vice president of facilities. During the credit union’s “test phase,” Orr concluded members are more receptive when they clearly see the sign before entering the branch rather than having someone approach them. “When we talked with FBI (officials) at a seminar, someone pointed out that there’s a dress code for schools and libraries, so why not financial institutions,” Orr said. “We have people who come up to our windows everyday in `costume.’ If someone commits a fraud on your account, the surveillance provides a greater chance to identify who that person is.” -

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