Want to see a bank robbery?
Just click on the Facebook page of the Seminole County Sheriff’s office in Orlando, Florida where a photo of a holdup (above) was recently posted by the department. In the photo, the thief is wearing sunglasses and a baseball hat, both of which obscure his face from the bank’s security camera.
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While bank robberies don’t often make the news, due to a recent crime spree in the suburban city of Longwood, Florida, banks are imposing a dress code on customers, prohibiting them from wearing hats, hoods, and sunglasses while inside the bank, according to a story reported this week in the Orlando Sentinel.
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Although national bank robbery rates are down, according to data supplied to Yahoo! Shine from the National Bankers Association—in 2011, there were 5,086 incidents compared to 5,546 in 2010, and 6,065 in 2009—Longwood, has seen a recent local spike. “We’ve had four robberies over the past three months—that’s a lot for Longwood,” Officer Kevin Tuck told Yahoo! Shine. “Our program was a direct response to that.” The program entails distributing stickers, which bear a print of the police badge and read, “Please remove hat, hood, and sunglasses before entering,” to each of the 16 banks in Longwood and according to Tuck who instigated the program, eight banks currently use them. “It’s up to each bank to decide whether to use the stickers or enforce the clothing restrictions,” said Tuck. “This doesn’t apply to the career bank robber who will inevitably find a way around it. It’s for the new guy nobody has seen before, who hands a note to the teller.”
The sticker program is a newer version of a 2008 initiative called “No hats, no sunglasses, no hoods” launched by the Florida Bankers Association, which included hanging posters in bank windows that outlined the clothing ban and distributing pamphlets to associates on how to handle customers that don’t comply. “We work with the Florida Highway Patrol and the FBI and encourage banks to hang the posters up but we don’t enforce it,” an FBA representative told Yahoo! Shine. “We don’t prevent anyone from coming into the bank wearing these items but if they’re asked to remove them and refuse, they’re monitored by nearby security guards and video cameras. If someone cannot remove the items due to religious or medical reasons, we direct them to a more experienced teller who will assist them or have them use a teller window located closer to the security cameras. And of course customers have the option to use online banking or the bank’s drive-through option, which doesn’t require a dress code. ”
According to John Hall, Senior Vice President of the National Bankers Association, similar policies have been instituted over the past 15 years in order to deter robbers. “It usually gets implemented when there’s a string of robberies in any given area,” he told Yahoo! Shine. “Banks typically do a very thorough job of training employees to prevent robberies and work with police to solve the crimes. But it’s a protective measure dictated by each bank, not branch, to make thieves think twice. Other common strategies: Using "bait money," special cash with a tracking device that a teller hands a robber or monies that contain red dye which explodes after a certain period time, rendering the money useless and identifiable as stolen.”
So far, the public’s reaction has been mixed. Donald Willis, a customer of local Longwood banks Fairwinds and Fidelity National told the Orlando Sentinel, "I have no problem with the policy at all. I was at Fairwinds recently when a gentleman walked in wearing a baseball cap. They were very polite about it, asked him to take it off, and he did. It was no big deal."
"I think banks just have to do whatever they have to do nowadays for security."
Others are getting adjusted to the scrutiny. According to a recent report published by CFNews13, a local news station in Orlando, customer Robert Mennilo walked into a bank carrying a flashlight and received the 5th degree. He said, “What’s it to remove your sunglasses? You can’t see. You don’t need them inside anyway. So, I can see maybe the hat,” then added, “Now that you’re telling me about this policy, I’m putting two and two together, I think she was casing me."
And like any policy, there are still kinks to work out. Last month, a man not wearing a hat or sunglasses parked his bike outside Fidelity National’s Longwood branch, which reportedly has a sticker program, calmly robbed the teller, then escaped on his bike. Only time will tell.
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