Saturday, April 04, 2009

Speaking of Banks...

Why the f%#k is it so easy to rob them?

I was reading this week's issue of the Plainview-Old Bethpage Herald. At the bottom of page three was an article about how Nassau County Robbery Squad detectives are still looking for a bank robbery suspect who robbed a Chase Bank on Old Country Road this past March 23.

The suspect, a white male between the ages of 27 to 32, approximately 5'8" in height, passed a note to the teller demanding money. After being handed the cash, he fled the scene.

The article then lists the following bank robberies he is suspected of carrying out based on photographs taken of him by the bank security cameras:

March 21 @ 12:30 p.m., Washington Mutual Bank at 3345 Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown.

March 21@ 1:55 p.m., Citibank at 670 Merrick Avenue in East Meadow.

March 23 @ 5:04 p.m., at the aforementioned Chase Bank at 1100 Old Country Road in Plainview.

March 26 @ 5:45 p.m., CapitalOne Bank at 1145 Willis Avenue in Albertson.

March 29 @ 1:30 p.m., TD Bank at 4126 Merrick Road in Massapequa.

March 30 @ 7:10 p.m., TD Bank at 416 Central Avenue in Cedarhurst.

As you can see, the suspect was especially ambitious on his first outing on the 21st, robbing two banks close to each other geographically in a narrow time frame. Judging by his targets, he either drives himself around or he has an accomplice, as his targets are scattered throughout the county. I would guess that he figures if he does not confine his robberies to a specific area, it will lessen his chances of being caught.

But back to the question I asked at the beginnning of this post, I have personally never worked in a bank, so I do not know what their procedures are in these situations. If anyone reading this has or currently does work in a bank, I would appreciate your comments. It looks to me though that the policy is for tellers to automatically comply with a request for money under the assumption that the robber is armed. But it strikes me as being way too pathetically easy for any loser or lowlife to walk in and demand money knowing that he or she will make an easy score. I do recall reading a few months ago where one bank robbery was foiled when a teller, in response to a demand for money, laughed at the would-be robber and said "Are you kidding me?" Apparently, that was all it took for the robber to lose his/her nerve and flee.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert on issues of security, but it seems to me that there are plenty of low-tech, commonsense methods that banks can adopt to reduce the number of robberies. How about requiring every person who enters a bank to show a valid identification? Every dance club that serves alcohol requires patrons to show i.d. at the door before entering the premises. Why the fuck can't banks do that? Or, if that is too much trouble, how about requiring everyone who enters the bank to remove their hats or hoods or anything else that obstructs views of their faces and to stand in a spot that enables the security camera to get a clear photograph? The article on the suspect in the Plainview robbery shows two separate photos of him wearing a baseball cap that partially obscures his face.

I understand that there are legitimate concerns about bank robberies turning into violent stand-offs. But it appears the overwhelming majority are like those perpetrated by the aforementioned suspect, a lone, in all likelihood unarmed individual, whose demands for cash made to a teller are meekly complied with. It would not surprise me if the suspect in the Plainview robbery was a heroin or other drug addict looking for cash to feed his habit. If that is the case, he is going to keep on committing robberies until he eventually slips up and gets caught. I just can't help thinking that people like him wouldn't be as successful as they are if banks would be take some proactive security measures.


bullet said...

How about requiring every person who enters a bank to show a valid identification?

I understand your point, Tommy, but I already show my ID to too many people. Besides, this doesn't help the matter, as fake IDs are easy to make and hard to spot. It would provide a false sense of security and probably increase the instances of bank robberies, resulting in even more draconian measures. Slippery slope, and all that. about requiring everyone who enters the bank to remove their hats or hoods or anything else that obstructs views of their faces...

I don't wear hats often and I usually remove them when inside. I do, however, wear my sunglasses almost every day. I also have a bad habit of losing sunglasses. If the bank required me to remove my sunglasses while I was inside the bank, I would eventually leave them on the counter. Yes, just a minor inconvenience, assuming that someone found them and held onto them for me. It's still one that I would like to avoid. Not to mention that taking off my sunglasses doesn't make me any less likely to rob the bank. Maybe someone will be able to identify me later, maybe not, especially if I showed the rent-a-cop a fake ID.

Bank robberies happen so often and are so easy because tellers are trained to just give the perpetrators whatever they want and sound the alarm. It's not their money. It's not the bank's money. It's their customers' money and their customers are insured. Not worth risking your life or the lives of those around you if you are even a little unsure about the seriousness of the robber's intent and motivation.

Guys who hit the teller don't make off with much. I've seen professionals (lawyers, bankers, etc.) take banks for much more than you could get at the window and then remain free because the bank doesn't want any negative publicity.

I understand the frustration at the seeming incompetence of the people involved, but it doesn't irritate me as much as it does you.

Tommykey said...

Thanks for your viewpoint, Bullet.

I understand there's a tradeoff at work. For example, if you increase security measures to prevent robbers from getting money from the tellers, they might start assaulting people at ATM's late at night.

Still, it rankles me that people can make off with money like that so easily, and then they go off and buy heroin or cocaine with it, which helps fuel the local drug trade and so forth.

My local bank branch actually had something useful that they took down. Near the exit there was a height strip with different colors depending on a person's height. But for some reason, they took it down.