That Other Crime. (ABA Chairman's Position)

Article excerpt

"AS BANKS BECOME MORE CUSTOMER friendly, they also become more robber-friendly."

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly

When it comes to fighting crime, bankers are already carrying a hefty load. We're improving our fraud-fighting capabilities, cracking down on money launderers, and even helping in the search for terrorists. Now we learn that an old nemesis--bank robberies--appears to be making a comeback.

Robberies were on decline during much of the 1990s. However, as robberies of all kinds are on the rise, bank robberies are up, too. The FBI tells us that small and rural towns, especially, are seeing a faster than average increase-a reported 50% increase in bank robberies over the past five years.

The good news, if any, is that 95% of all banks robberies are non-violent in nature. Injuries occur in just 2% of them, hostages are taken in 1.4% of cases and deaths occur in less than 0.4% of cases, according to the most recent FBI statistics.

It's clear that bankers may have to take on even greater responsibility for working with local law enforcement officials given that the FBI, while still active, has scaled back some of its robbery-prevention activities as increasing demands are placed on the agency to go after international terrorists. Under the FBI's restructuring plans, federal agents will now respond just to armed robberies, those committed by a repeat offenders, and those that have interstate connections.

Bankers are already generating new solutions to this age-old, but still common crime. The Massachusetts Bankers Association, for example, has encouraged its members to post signs asking customers to remove their hats, sunglasses and hoods when entering a bank. The MBA also supported the introduction of legislation this year to mandate minimum sentences for bank robberies, based on how the robberies are conducted, if a weapon is threatened, and so forth. …