SALT LAKE CITY -Robberies at Utah banks and credit unions are up sharply in 2003, perhaps the result of the economic downturn combined with eased access to financial institutions, according to the Utah League of Credit Unions. “FBI statistics show we’ve had 56 robberies so far this year and we’re just barely into the second quarter as compared to 74 in all of 2002,” declared Joann Wheeler, hired by the League last September to handle stepped up security training at CUs. Robbers “who obviously don’t care about their victims, continue to look for quick money, and with so many stand-alone branches, it has made their job easier,” said Wheeler. The League has been working with police and detective units in Salt Lake City and other Utah cities to expand security training at small to medium size CUs which have been hit, she said. “We’re working with credit union staff to improve deterrence procedures, make sure they have good surveillance, alarm systems and observation skills,” she said. In addition, the League is training on “protecting evidence, fingerprinting etc.” Discussing national data, CUNA Mutual in Madison attributed the increase in CU robberies “in part to the fact that credit unions have evolved from single-sponsor institutions located in company and organization buildings to full community charters with stand-alone brick and mortar main offices.” When credit unions were located in offices and work buildings, “robbers did not recognize them as financial institutions or may not have been aware they even existed,” said a CUNA Mutual spokesperson. “Now they do.” The Madison, Wis.-based insurance and bonding firm said it maintains a continuing training and service program to help CUs minimize the effects of robbery. Resources include a loss-prevention library on CUNA Mutual’s Web site, robbery prevention training, and service as a resource liaison to deal with traumatic events. CUNA Mutual also said it has added post-robbery trauma insurance coverage. If CUNA Mutual pays the loss associated with a robbery, it reimburses the CU for expenses in providing counseling to employees traumatized by the robbery. -

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