INDIANAPOLIS (4/7/11)--The lingering recession has some individuals looking for new ways to make money, and a few venture down the wrong path, taking desperate measures such as robbing credit unions and banks. To mitigate that activity, shared branching vendor Credit Union Centers has come up with five cost-effective ways to help secure credit union branches from violent crimes. Among the things a credit can do for less than $2,500, says the Indianapolis-based company, are:
* Train staff to look up and verbally acknowledge everyone who walks in the door. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) lists an alert staff as a top defense against robbery. Robbers will often "case" a facility before the robbery. Staffers are more likely to identify this activity if they are alert to each visitor. If necessary, install a low volume door chime (about $150 installed) that alerts staff when someone enters the building. * Make your lobby design a robber deterrent. Place physical barriers such as check writing stands or queuing lines between the entrance and teller area to prevent a robber from making a straight line from the entrance to the teller and vice versa. By using existing branch components, this can normally be accomplished at no cost, said Credit Union Centers. * Install time delay locks on vault cash storage. Robbers want to get in and out in a hurry. A time delay lock (about $850 installed) requires staff to wait five to 15 minutes after entering the lock combination to access vault cash. Signage posted on the vault door identifies the lack of immediate access to the area. Robbers generally will not wait for the necessary time to expire. Although time delay locks won't prevent a robbery, they reduce the chance of a large loss associated with vault-cash theft. The delay in access requires adjustment by staff and management, but with planning, operations generally do not suffer from the lag time. * Review images on security equipment and make adjustments, if necessary. Adjust security cameras so each teller window is covered by at least one camera--with the head of a member standing at the teller window filling a minimum 15% of the image. Lenses should be focused for sufficient image quality for positive identification of facial features.
"Security cameras and lenses have improved in quality and reduced in price over the last several years," said Dan Davis, executive vice president/chief financial officer of Credit Union Centers. "If your current equipment cannot be adjusted to provide quality images, strategically replacing a few cameras or simply upgrading the lenses on your existing equipment is a very affordable option." Consider installing a pinhole camera (about $650 installed) at eye level within the doorframe of the entry exit door. Robbers will often hide their face from an exposed camera over the teller line, but they are usually looking straight ahead as they exit the branch.
* Make branch security a priority for all staff. Schedule quarterly security meetings for branch staff and review before-, during- and after-robbery procedures. A well-trained staff with fresh information will help when an actual robbery occurs. Networking with the police and other local financial institutions to share procedures and details of robbery activity will help refine internal practices and alert staff of recent local robbery activity.
Davis said that 10 shared branch network branches in Indiana were prone to robbery the past couple of years as the recession intensified. Adding something like a $150 door chime that sounds off each time a member walks into a branch is a cost-effective start, he said. Credit Union Centers trained employees at the affected 10 branches to be alert and notice who's entering the branch--and even say hello. "It's all about paying attention," he said. "If a robber is watching the branch for any amount of time, they won't go near it because of how alert everybody is. They will go somewhere else." As a result of the company's security efforts, robberies at the affected branches the past year were reduced to one. Images from the branch surveillance system and physical descriptions provided by alert staff allowed police to apprehend the robbers quickly. "We realize credit unions and most other organizations during this challenging economic times are on a tight budget, so we implemented some common sense and cost-effective ideas that not only promoted security but fostered great member service as well," Davis said. "Getting to know your members, greeting them at the door, and looking up when they walk into a branch shows members and possible criminals that you're alert."