Apr 11, 2007

how to stop a bank robbery, or The Times reads my mind

Just yesterday I was mentioning to my mom that the best way to deal with a bank robber is psychological warfare--pointing out that the note is misspelled, asking to please see the weapon to make sure it is "within code," saying "I'm sorry, but we're out of cash today, and you'll have to go across the street." I argued that most robberies are committed by desperate, nervous people who are too jittery to think straight.

In a delightful coincidence, today's Times explains why my strategy works.
Scott Taffera sensed something was wrong when a man walked into the Ballard bank branch he manages wearing garden gloves, a hat and sunglasses.

But instead of following the nonconfrontational strategy used by most banks with suspicious people, Taffera approached the man with a hearty greeting and an offer to help. He invited him to remove his hat and sunglasses, and guided him to an equally bubbly teller.

In the end, the oddly dressed man requested a roll of quarters before slinking out the door....

By focusing attention in the guise of good customer service on all who enter a bank, [FBI Agent Larry] Carr says, bank employees can unnerve robbers, who generally try to remain as anonymous as possible when approaching a teller.

The ploy specifically targets so-called "note jobs," in which a robber passes a note demanding cash to a teller, Carr said. He estimates 90 percent of bank robberies in the Seattle area are note jobs.
So there you have it. If you can maintain your sang froid, most likely, the robber's own nerves will take care of the rest.

Well, not any more, now that the word is out, but it was a great strategy while it lasted.


Anonymous said...

Safecath is a two prong bank robbery suppression program, of which, the greeting is just a small portion. The "Safe" portion of the program is empowering employees shifting them from a "do nothing" mind set and providing them with tools to prevent 90% of bank robberies. The premise is you don't have to stand there and wait to become a victim when you see something suspicious.

The "catch" portion relates to proactive measures taken after the robbery (and after the robber leaves the bank) to aide law enforcement in the robbers arrest.

Don't fear that the "cat is out of the bag" stay proactive and be safe, always comply once a demand has been made. Bank robbers seek anonymity, take it from them and they will go elsewhere.

Larry Carr
FBI Seattle

Jim Anderson said...


Let's hope that you're right--that SafeCatch won't be derailed by media-savvy crooks. It's one of the cleverest law enforcement schemes out there.