Industry Letters

Banking Department Offers Guidance to the Industry Regarding Recent Bank Robberies

May 8, 2003

To the Chief Executive Officer of the Institution or Organization Addressed:

The New York State Banking Department ("NYSBD"), as part of its ongoing commitment to maintain the safety and soundness of the financial community, and to protect consumers, strongly supports the New York City Police Department and the Office of Mayor Bloomberg in their efforts to safeguard banks, their customers and employees against bank robberies.

Concern regarding the increasing number of bank robberies in the New York area has prompted city and state officials to adopt new strategies to combat this growing epidemic.

The NYPD has promulgated a list of recommended “best practices” to aid banks in discouraging the occurrence of robberies in their institutions. The Banking Department strongly encourages supervised institutions to consider adhering to the following practices:

  • Install Closed Circuit Television Systems (CCTV): High quality digital equipment should be used to capture the faces of persons transacting business at teller stations and other key locations, such as entrances and exits. Cameras should be positioned to ensure that a full frontal photograph of potential bank robbers is obtained. Digital recording systems should be used that permit easy viewing and the retrieval of high quality images (i.e., a sufficient number of pixels for improved zoom capabilities). They should also be capable of transferring the images to a portable form of media, such as CD-R or DVD. Video surveillance systems must be aligned properly as to attain a complete picture of the ATM, bank floor and teller areas.
  • Utilize 35 Millimeter Cameras: In addition to CCTV, 35-millimeter cameras should be used to allow bank personnel to capture images of robberies in progress.
  • Lighting & Cameras: Cameras and interior lighting should be positioned in a manner as to not interfere with the processing of images of bank robbers captured on security video or by 35-millimeter cameras.
  • Erect Bullet-Resistant “Bandit” Barriers: Floor-to ceiling “bandit” barriers should be erected to protect bank personnel from direct threats and provide a greater degree of security and deterrence.
  • Employ Customer Greeters: Security guards, customer service representatives or greeters should engage customers by greeting them as they enter the branch. This practice has been found to be an effective tool in deterring robberies.
  • Use Dye Packs & Serialized Currency: Dye packs and serialized currency will aid in prevention, apprehension and prosecution efforts.
  • Utilize Height Markers: Height markers at doorways will help to establish a bank robber’s height.
  • Direct Access Telephone Numbers: Banks should be provided with direct telephone numbers to the Major Case Squad and the Joint Bank Robbery Task Force. This will enhance the ability of law enforcement to obtain information expeditiously in the event of a robbery.
  • Implement Employee Training: Employees should be trained to trigger alarms and security cameras at the time of the robbery, and to call 911 immediately. They should be trained to provide a detailed description of the bank robber and the direction of such person’s flight.
  • Employee Instructions: Employees should be instructed to limit the amount of currency surrendered and to include bait money in $50 and $100 denominations. They should also retain the demand note, when possible, and minimize the contamination of evidence at the crime scene.
  • Maintain Unobstructed Views: Floor plans should be reviewed to ensure that employees’ views of the teller areas are unobstructed.
  • Signage: Signs should be placed conspicuously to indicate the presence of surveillance equipment.
  • Installation of Alarm Systems: Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standards should be adhered to, including panic alarm buttons at each teller’s workstation and all other key points throughout the bank.
  • Safes/Vaults: Vaults and safes that are rated for their tool and torch resistance level, based on the amount of currency held, should be utilized.

Additional measures currently being explored by the NYPD are the use of a 911 link that would automatically link bank robbery alarms to the 911 emergency number, instant email notifications that would alert all banks when one has been threatened or robbed, and an inter-bank and bank-to-police car video link that would transmit bank camera video among banks and to responding police vehicles.

Discussions with law enforcement officials have clearly demonstrated a need to adhere to the above-mentioned practices. The NYPD has stepped up surveillance and increased the use of undercover detectives and cameras, in and around banks prone to robberies. In addition, they have also offered to provide a personal instructional session to all bank employees to review ways in which they can better protect their banks against robberies. The Banking Department strongly encourages all banking institutions to utilize these services for the benefit of their bank, as well as for that of the community.