In bank robberies, safety is a top priority
It often starts with the robber quietly passing a note to the bank teller demanding money and indicating he has a weapon.
After that comes the stress and anxiety for bank employees, who are trained to get robbers out of the bank as quickly as possible, and customers, who may be in the bank to cash a check and instead witness the robbery.
“It can be a very traumatic experience and it's very frightening,” said Kevin Kiley, executive vice president of the Massachusetts Bankers Association.
At least two banks were robbed in the region on Monday, one in Holbrook and another on the north side of Brockton.
The Holbrook robbery was reported at 10:30 a.m. at Randolph Savings Bank, 50 South Franklin St. Police said it was the second robbery at that bank in one month.
The suspect was described as a male between 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 4 inches tall and wearing a Patriots baseball cap, Army-type jacket and a Band-Aid on his left cheek. Police said the suspect fled in a white, four-door sedan.
HarborOne Credit Union, 820 North Main St., Brockton, was robbed at noon.
The suspect is described as a male wearing a Red Sox baseball cap and gray sweatshirt and possibly driving a white vehicle with tinted windows.
Police were attempting Monday to determine if the robberies were related.
Bank robberies have also been reported in recent weeks in Easton, Stoughton, Weymouth and Taunton.
Despite countermeasures used by many banks, including surveillance cameras and dye packs that explode and mark stolen currency, many robbers remain undeterred from walking into a bank and demanding money.
“It angers us that we have to deal with this sort of stuff,” said Leo MacNeil, HarborOne's senior vice president of marketing.
“You're dealing in most cases with desperate people who are not deterred by these techniques to prevent it,” MacNeil said.
Many bank robbers are looking for quick cash to fund a drug habit or other addiction, several said.
What happens after a robber enters a bank is key, several officials said.
Bank personnel are trained to handle the transaction smoothly and get the robber out of the bank quickly to minimize the danger to other personnel and customers, Kiley said.
“What we don't want to occur is a situation where, God forbid, there is a weapon and have some incident occur within the confines in the bank,” he said.
Kiley said there are a “range of activities” banks employ during a robbery, but he declined to elaborate for security reasons.
After a robbery, HarborOne provides counseling to help bank personnel overcome any trauma they experienced, MacNeil said.
“We do everything we can to strengthen the employees and customers who had to experience that episode,” he said.
In 2002, the Massachusetts Bankers Association organized the Bank Robbery Working Group, comprised of security personnel from banks and representatives of federal, state and municipal law enforcement agencies.
The group coordinated an online database of unidentified bank robbery suspects at the Web site www.MassMostWanted.org.
One of those guidelines was for banks to ask customers to remove their hats and sunglasses before entering the bank.
“Disguises are intentionally worn to disguise who (the robbers) are in the case of being videotaped,” Kiley said.
During Monday's bank robberies in Brockton and Holbrook, the suspects wore baseball caps.
Legislation is also being proposed to seek tougher criminal penalties for bank robbers.
The impact of a bank robbery goes beyond a financial loss as it creates an increased stress level for both bank personnel and customers, Kiley said.
While banks have significant levels of insurance to protect against loss, robberies do not significantly drive up the insurance rates, Kiley said.
MacNeil, of HarborOne, said robberies do not hurt the bank's efforts to recruit tellers and other employees.
“I haven't seen it as a major issue. We've been pretty successful in recruiting and retaining employees in those positions,” he said.
However, MacNeil said the bank will transfer any employee to another branch after a robbery to make them more comfortable, if requested.
“All of this is paramount. The money is secondary,” MacNeil said.
The HarborOne branch robbed in Brockton was closed for two hours. It reopened at 2 p.m.
Max Jocelyn of Brockton hadn't heard about the robbery when he parked his car at HarborOne on North Main Street just before 5 p.m. Monday.
“It concerns everybody, people's safety in the bank, even the consumers, the people who are coming to deposit their money,” Jocelyn, 50, said.
And after he completed his banking at that same HarborOne branch, David White of Brockton said he wasn't concerned about his money or about his safety.
“I'm concerned about crime,” he said. “It's just one more example of it.”
Maria Papadopoulos of The Enterprise News (Brockton, Mass.) can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.