Last year, Seattle saw a 51 percent decrease in the number of bank robberies from its decade average between 1996 and 2006 of approximately 300 robberies annually. These statistics are even more impressive considering that in many parts of the country bank robberies are on the rise.
The conventional wisdom in the banking industry regarding robberies can be summed up in one word: compliance. Hand over the money and make sure nobody gets hurt. While well intended, Carr discovered this philosophy may actually be a contributing factor to the number of banks being robbed.
SafeCatch—which is being evaluated for use in other FBI field offices—takes a more proactive approach. First, it trains bank employees to spot suspicious behavior and safely take control of the situation. The majority of bank robbers are males acting alone without weapons—they know that using a weapon during a robbery can mean a lot more jail time. The robber typically poses as a customer waiting in line. It’s only when he gets to the teller’s window and makes a demand that he has committed a crime.
Employees trained in SafeCatch learn to spot “customers” who may be acting nervously or wearing hats or hooded sweatshirts—to shield their faces from security cameras. Before a robbery occurs, employees proactively engage the person:
“Good afternoon!” the employee might say. “I don’t think I’ve seen you in this branch before. If you’re here to open a new account, I can take your ID and help you at my desk.”
That action might be just enough to make the robber head for the door. If the person turns out to be a legitimate customer, Carr said, the only thing the employee has done is offer excellent customer service.
When a holdup does occur, SafeCatch trains the victim teller to dial 911 immediately, as opposed to activating an alarm. This way the teller, usually the only one who knows what happened, is in direct contact with the police in real time.
Ok ok so carrying out the above doesn’t exactly make bank tellers action heroes, but surely the philosophy the FBI are advocating(i.e. if you comply then you’ll just be encouraging more robberies) is a recipe for making people feel like they have to act like heroes when confronted with such situations. It is an interesting philosophy for the FBI to be pushing given that such law enforcement agencies often poo-poo a citizen’s right to self-defence because they say the police police are better trained to deal with such situations. Here the FBI is saying the bank staff are better able…if bank staff are better able then why doesn’t the same rule apply to the rest of us?