WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -In the never-ending search for what prevents robberies most effectively, two credit unions think they have found the perfect solution. Whether by takeover – where violence is used to threaten staffers and members alike – or by the more passive note passers where usually only the teller and the robber are aware of what is going on -it takes an average of 60 seconds to rob a financial institution. For Apple Valley, California-based High Desert Federal Credit Union peace of mind came in the form of access control units also known as "man-traps." Prior to the units being installed in 1996 the credit union had a few robberies, but after experiencing three take-over robberies within one year, the man-traps were set. "We were one of the first credit unions to install these units and since they have been installed we haven't had a single robbery -including note passers," said HDFCU President/CEO Thomas Brown. Here is how the ACUs work: Members entering or exiting the credit union pass through a double set of bulletproof glass doors one at a time. The second door will not open until the first has closed and credit union employees can lock both doors with the flip of a switch. Because of the bulletproof glass, robbers who try to shoot their way out of the traps risk hurting themselves when the bullets ricochet. To make members aware and comfortable with t he doors, HDFCU has not only posted signs and brochures on the subject but also staffers are on hand to answer any questions. In a recent member survey only 17.9% responded that they did not feel the security doors were necessary for safety. At the time HDFCU purchased the units they cost $35,000. Brown says today they can start at about $50,000 depending on factors such as the safety features, level of bullet resistance glass or biometric devices included. "We make no apologies for having the doors," said Brown. "I'll tell anyone I'm an advocate of these units. Absolutely nothing is foolproof but for us this was the best and most cost efficient solution- maintenance is just twice a year." Michigan Educational Credit Union Chief Financial Officer Mark Pugliese says the Plymouth, Michigan-based credit union has been keeping its staffers and members safe for over 20 years via bullet resistant glass at the teller stations. "Just having the glass makes robbers think twice when they case the branch," said Pugliese. "And it is working. While others in our area have been robbed a few times our branches still haven't been hit." Pugliese says since the credit union has always had the glass barrier it has become part of its identity and something members accept. " The big myth out there is that the glass somehow takes away the personalization but that has not been the case at all-our tellers are still friendly and there is no change in their attitude or level of service. I think the reason our members respond so well to the glass is that we don't make a big deal out of it and because of that members perceive it the same way," said Pugliese. " Members know to expect these barriers in every branch." Pugliese adds that constant education helps members understand that the glass is for their protection as well as the staff's to prevent hostage situations. [email protected]

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