Symposium sheds light on bank security issues

Conference from ADT looks at robberies, skimming, ATM attacks and other bank crimes


Still, some bank security directors noted that it's sometimes challenging to make bank management pay attention. One security director noted that the bank manager said he was making so much money from a particular ATM that he could afford the loss of it on occasion. That security director said he was trying to convince his bank managers that their profits from the ATMs would be even higher if they would outlay some spending to protect the units, thereby preventing crimes and removing the almost expected cost of replacing the ATM.

Of course, ATMs weren't the only concern for those in attendance. A session addressed the issue of crime reduction. In today's banking environment, the bank security directors have been able to deploy quality video surveillance systems, making the fuzzy black-and-white image of a robber almost history. They've organized in regional groups like ChicagoFIRST (www.chicagofirst.org) and FloridaFIRST (www.flafirst.org) designed to share information that can help prevent crimes and identify common tactics. Such tactics do help. Paul Evans, a retired Boston Police Commissioner who worked on the London surveillance system and spoke at the symposium, was one of the advocates for cameras. He said that adding cameras can reduce crime by 3 or 4 percent. "Better lighting," added Evans, "reduces crime by up 20 percent."

But even with cameras and regional bank security think-tanks and discussion boards, security directors are sometimes having trouble getting cases focused on by prosecutors. While bank robberies are federal-level crimes which break the Federal Bank Robbery and Incidental Crimes Statute, getting federal level prosecution is sometimes difficult.

"At [the U.S. Secret Service] headquarters, we are dedicating more effort to prosecuting identity theft," said Jeff Rinehart, a special agent with the U.S. Secret Service speaking at the ADT Banking Security Symposium.

Brad Bryant, the FBI Chief of the Violent Crimes Major Offender Unit, noted that the FBI is ramping up mortgage fraud enforcement, and is adding 200 agents in the field to deal with that area of financial crime. "But, said Bryant, "that [focus on mortgage fraud] shouldn't impact our ability to address core issues like bank robberies."

Nonetheless, Johnny Niedzwiedzki, a U.S. Postal Inspection Service inspector on hand with Bryant and Rinehart for the "Ask the Agent town hall panel", was honest and candid when he told attendees that "federal prosecutors want the good cases."

Rinehart, Bryant and Niedzwiedzki all encouraged bank security directors to align closely with local law enforcement to develop prosecutable cases, and the general conclusion was that it simply isn't practical to get all bank crimes cases prosecuted at a federal level.

Finally, while much of the symposium was focused on issues like major financial crimes -- from robberies to insider money laundering and even skimming -- the symposium recognized that banks are filled with employees and that creates its own problems.

Dr. Steven Albrecht, PHR, CPP, presented a workshop along with ADT's Pat Fiel, to discuss employee violence as part of the program. Albrecht's major point to bank security directors when dealing with issues of workplace violence was, "We can't predict violence, but we can assess dangerousness."

Albrecht told attendees that they have to remember that domestic violence can be a common part of any work environment.

"Often, the first time human resources and the security department hears about a restraining order is when the old boyfriend is in the bank lobby," said Albrecht. "Organizations need to consider the risk of domestic violence," said Albrecht. "If you have a large number of females in your workforce, you are at risk [for domestic violence]."

Outside of domestic violence, Albrecht pointed at issues of general violence. He reminded attendees that there are three factors which are commonly the source of such violence. The first, he said, is economic stress, such as the inability to pay the bills and put food on the table. The massive layoffs affecting the banking industry in the fall of 2008 should be considered a warning sign of potential violence, he noted. The second factor is mental illness and depression, and Albrecht noted that depression and mental anguish often follow after economic stresses. The third factor is revenge on individuals or a company. Unfortunately, he said that also can be linked to firings and layoffs. If there's any take-away from education on workplace violence, it was that we exist as an event-driven society.