Banks fight robberies with new policies, camera positions

Experts weigh in on the challenges involved with implementing dress policies designed to deter bank robbers


"One of the difficulties we've faced with these policies is when good customers, who are well known to the employees and who have been coming in for years and are comfortable wearing their hat or sunglasses, get told to take them off," he said. "The problem you are dealing with is if you don't apply it to everyone whether you know the customer or not, is the issue of someone claiming that it is unfair, you're discriminated against a particular group and so forth."

Another thing that Thompson says banks need to consider when they implement this policy is employee training.

"When we teach robbery training, one of things we really focus on is safety. We tell the employees don't say or do anything that you think may alienate the robber," he said. "At the point you ask him 'please remove your hat and sunglasses' you don't' know if he's a robber or not. If he becomes the least bit hostile about it or is argumentative, we don't want to push him from the standpoint if he is a robber, we don't want him to hurt anyone. Through the whole process, the most important thing we tell them is that the safety of employees and customers is the number one priority. "

Rather that instituting polices like this, however, Armstrong said that some people in the bank security sector have begun looking at new ways to mount surveillance cameras in which hats and sunglasses would no longer give robbers an advantage when it comes to hiding their identity

"The ways that we have traditionally mounted cameras in bank have been high and shooting down. The bad guys have figured, if they were a baseball cap and don't look up, that you're not going to get a good face shot of them," he said. "One bank that I know of has started a program where they are actually placing the teller line cameras face high, shooting them directly in the face instead of putting them on the wall behind and shooting down at an individual."

While it's all but impossible to determine how many robberies have been averted using the policy, Harris said that a man, who is believed to have robbed several banks in Texas, recently entered one of their branches and seemed to act suspiciously after an employee asked him to remove his hat and sunglasses.

"When we first looked at this policy, if it could stop one or two robberies we were all for it," Harris said. "We realize that it's not going to stop the overt robberies, where two or three people come in with guns, but 95 percent of robberies are still what we refer to as covert robberies, where they just come in with a note and don't want anybody to know they were there."