If your credit union is hit by a robbery at opening or closing time, several things are likely. The robbery has been carefully planned, there's a chance someone on the staff has been involved and the results can be devastating.Tom Lekan, senior vice president/senior consultant at Atlantis Security Management Co. in Cleveland, works with individual credit unions and groups to stress the importance of procedures that can dramatically cut the risk of "morning glory" and closing robberies. He also pointed out the Bank Protection Act requires that opening and closing procedures be approved by the financial institution's board."Most robberies are the result of the drug guy, the guy who just got out of prison or local thugs who just want to get some money," Lekan said. "Then you will have the serial robber. They will pick a town-Cleveland, Columbus-and do takeover robberies. They'll come in, yell and scream. They'll do several robberies. Then they'll get caught, and the number of robberies suddenly goes down."But with morning-glory and closing robberies, there's a lot of planning, he continued. Those robberies need to arouse at least a suspicion of collusion with somebody inside the financial institution. In fact, Lekan is currently working on a case where the criminals had intimidated a teller.Fortunately, he said, in 14 years he has only seen a handful of morning-glory robberies. However, if financial institutions are lax in their opening and closing procedures, Lekan predicted such robberies will increase.When they do occur, they're dangerous and overwhelming in the loss. Lekan cited a robbery in Akron where the crooks reportedly took more than $1 million. Typically in those types of robberies, the robbers come in, surprise everyone in the branch, duct tape the employees and put them on the floor, open the vault and then clean it out."If people pay attention to the opening and closing procedures most financial institutions promote, that will really lessen the chances of a morning-glory or closing robbery," Lekan said.With staff cutbacks, longer business hours, evening financial seminars and community rooms open to various groups, it's easy to overlook suspicious activity, such as someone sitting in a car casing the branch. They quickly discover, for example, if only one person is opening or closing the branch, that person always goes through the back door and there's no sign of them putting up an all-clear signal."I can guarantee you, the criminals don't just run in without doing some surveillance," Lekan emphasized.The more open atmosphere at many financial institutions today carries with it some risk, he noted. Crimes of opportunity are perpetrated by someone seeking money the easy way."You think about changes in credit unions, their welcoming, friendly environment and openings handled by one person, it isn't going to be far down the road before the criminals realize what they have," Lekan said.Lekan has seen a lot of videos financial institutions use for training staff in opening and closing procedures. While the videos may be fine, Lekan much prefers someone in person handling the training to reinforce the importance and respond to questions."The problem is, what is the training and what is the reality," he said. "If I say you should have two people to open the vault, then tomorrow you have to open by yourself, what are you going to do? A lot of people think they're out in the suburbs and nothing will ever happen. The worst robbery I ever saw took place in the wealthiest community in Indiana. One person was killed and five people were shot."People working rough neighborhoods, he noted, pay attention because they know it's part of their survival.Lekan offered some specific pointers:Make sure employees understand the procedures are designed for their protection.Require two people at opening. One should remain outside in their car watching while the other person enters the building.The employees should be in contact by cell phone. If there is any problem, such as a suspicious car in the parking lot, call the police nonemergency phone number. Officers would much rather check out a suspicious person than respond to a hostage robbery.In addition to posting the all-clear signal, the person inside should step outside so the watcher knows they are not under duress.When the first employee re-enters the building, they should lock the door behind them. The second person must unlock the door.Do not have an automatic-on and automatic-off alarm system. The person arriving should enter their code to turn the alarm off. An alternative code can be used to signal the alarm company the employee is under duress.It's rare, but robbers have been known to follow an employee home. So staff should be alert and vary their route to and from work.–[email protected]

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