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Industry Letters

Best Practices for the Prevention of Bank Robberies

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September 8, 2003

To All Institutions with Retail Branches in New York City:

Dear Sir: 

As you are no doubt aware, there has been an unprecedented and alarming increase in the number of bank robberies in 2003 compared to last year.  In New York City alone, the Police Department has reported more than 300 bank robberies, armed and unarmed, since January 1, 2003 – a jump of nearly 200 percent over the same period last year.  The vast majority of these robberies were by unarmed note passers.  There have been 256 robberies by note passers as of September 3, 2003 compared to 86 for the same period last year. 

Beginning in April, New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly asked banks doing business in New York City to help derail the trend by implementing measures designed to deter robberies, and to help apprehend the perpetrators when they did occur.  The Police Department, along with the New York State Bankers Association, distributed a list of recommendations and best practices for banks to follow in an effort to increase security.  Among these best practices are using dye packs, providing improved and obvious surveillance, employing greeters or security guards and installing bandit barriers.  The New York Bankers Association formally adopted these recommendations on May 5, 2003.  Unfortunately, robberies continue to occur at an alarming pace, especially in Manhattan. 

It is clear that a great number of bank robberies are attempted, and many successfully accomplished, due simply to the ease of carrying out the act.  Recent police analysis has shown that some banks are far more vulnerable to physical security breaches than others.  For example, certain banks have bandit barriers installed at teller locations, while others do not.  A number of banks whose tellers are protected by the presence of bandit barriers have a “walk away” policy that simply instructs a teller, who feels comfortable in doing so, to walk away from a would be robber when presented with a note demanding that he or she turn over the money in their cash drawer.  Other banks have adopted a policy instructing their personnel to fully cooperate with anyone who walks up to their teller window demanding money. This posture sends a clear message to the criminal that the institution is an easy and convenient mark for robbery.   

Clearly, a critical goal is the protection of employees and consumers. The best way to meet this goal is by ensuring that appropriate security is in place. Adhering to the attached security recommendations of the New York City Police Department would be a major step in this direction. 

If you have any questions regarding the recommendations, please do not hesitate to call any of us.  We look forward to working with you to keep your customers, employees and City as safe and secure as can be. 

Thank you for your time and cooperation,  

/S/ Diana L. Taylor
New York State Banking Superintendent 

/S/ Raymond W. Kelly
Commissioner
New York City Police Department


At the behest of the New York City Police Department, the New York Bankers Association adopted in May 2003 the following “Best Practices” to help deter bank robberies and aid in the apprehension of bank robbers. Banks that had adopted all of the practices, and applied them universally in all branches, had experienced no bank robberies. 

Closed Circuit Television Systems (CCTV): High quality digital equipment to capture faces of persons transacting business at teller stations and other key locations, such as entrances and exits.  Cameras should be positioned to ensure a full frontal photograph is obtained of perpetrators.  Use digital recording systems capable of easy viewing and retrieval of high quality images (i.e., a sufficient number of pixels for improved zoom capabilities), and of transferring the images to a portable form of media such as CD-R or DVD with a minimum amount of technical knowledge.  Video surveillance systems of the bank floor/teller areas and ATM area should be aligned properly.   

Those banks or branches which do not yet have digital equipment installed, should have CCTV analog equipment and/or 35 millimeter cameras in sufficient quantities and of sufficient quality to accomplish the identification and coverage goals described above. When installing replacement or additional equipment, banks should install high quality digital equipment.  Once digital equipment is installed, banks should additionally consider the use of 35 millimeter cameras, to allow bank personnel to capture images of robberies in progress.  

Lighting/Cameras: Cameras or interior lighting positioned so lighting does not interfere with processing images of perpetrators captured on security video, or in the development of 35 mm film. 

Bullet-resistant bandit barriers: Bandit barriers to protect bank personnel from direct threats and provide a higher degree of security and deterrence.  Where banks have instituted a cashless environment, alternatives to bandit barriers may be in order. 

Employees to greet customers: Security guards, customer service representatives or greeters to engage customers by greeting them as they enter the branch, should be utilized at a minimum on a floating basis to provide a plain view security presence, not necessarily at predictable times.  This practice has been found to be an effective tool in deterring robberies. 

Dye packs/serialized currency: Dye packs and serialized currency are  strongly recommended as potential aids in prevention, apprehension and prosecution efforts. 

Height markers: Height markers at doorways to help establish perpetrator’s height. 

Direct telephone numbers: Bank branch direct telephone numbers provided to the Major Case Squad and Joint Bank Robbery Task Force to enhance their ability to obtain information expeditiously in the event of a robbery. 

Employee training: Employees trained to trigger alarms and security cameras, as soon as reasonably possible to both protect the safety of customers and employees and facilitate apprehension of the robber.  Employees should also be trained to call 911 as soon as reasonably possible to provide detailed description of perpetrator and direction of flight. 

Employee instructions: Employees instructed to limit amount of currency surrendered, to cover dye packs if utilized, with $50 and $100 denominations, to retain demand note when possible, and to minimize contamination of evidence and crime scene.  The use of bait or decoy money should also be considered as potential aids in prevention, apprehension and prosecution efforts.   

Unobstructed views: Employees’ views of teller area should be unobstructed. 

Signage: In addition to the signage required by the ATM Safety Act, additional signage regarding bank security, (for example signage placed conspicuously, indicating the presence of surveillance equipment and/or FBI signage) should be utilized. 

Alarm systems: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards for Central Station Extent #2 to include hold-up alarm buttons at each teller’s workstation as well as other key points throughout the bank. 

Safes/vaults: UL listed classifications for burglary resistant containers.  Vaults/safes rated for tool and torch resistance level based on amount of currency held. 

Bank/NYPD Communications:  All banks should be connected to the Crime Prevention/Area Police Private Security Liaison (A.P.P.L.) program.

Enhancement of A.P.P.L. Email alert system: Bank supported enhancements to current A.P.P.L. e-mail alert system to include cross institutional/police video communication (including bank-to-police car video communication), to disseminate immediate notifications of bank robberies or attempted robberies and suspect information.  This could prove successful in apprehending suspects who, when rebuffed at one location, target another bank until successful.

May 5, 2003