Feb. 1--One of the best ways for bank tellers to thwart robbers is to hand over money with dye packs. It stains robbers. It makes them cry -- because of the tear gas in the packs.
It was one of the key points Wichita police and FBI agents made Tuesday at a "refresher training" for nearly 100 representatives of Wichita financial institutions at a south-side education center.
The meeting came partly in response to recent robberies along South Seneca.
FBI Special Agent John Sullivan said he encourages banks to use dye packs because they lead to recovery of stolen money about 70 percent of the time and make it easier to identify suspects.
"Please have your employees giving them out," Sullivan said.
Dye packs, which are disguised so a robber doesn't recognize them, are designed to explode after a robber flees a bank. The packs leave a noticeable red stain on money and anything exposed to it. Combined with the tear gas, it's enough to make a rattled robber drop his loot.
The dye contains a substance that can be detected long after a robbery, Sullivan said.
"It's a unique chemical. We can swab for it."
Some banks are beginning to use GPS tracking devices in the packs.
Another good way to catch a robber doesn't involve technology.
"Just be a very good witness," Sullivan said.
That means paying attention to details, say a scar or a tattoo, a certain kind of shoes or voice characteristics.
The challenge is that many robbers cover up with disguises.
Also crucial for police responding to a robbery scene are the direction in which the robber left and any description of a getaway vehicle, including a tag number.
Robbers are in a hurry to get far away from the scene, Sullivan said.
"They're not turning around to see if anybody is watching."
Banks and other businesses should pay close attention to access, police say. Missing boards in a back fence, for example, can be an inviting escape route.
It also pays to be wary of people who might be watching a business before a heist, Police Chief Norman Williams said. Their goal, he said, is to "look at how they can get in and out... in a short amount of time."
Most robberies last less than two minutes, although it "probably seems like a lifetime" to a teller getting a note from a robber, Sullivan said. Often, the robber has left before others realize a robbery has occurred.
Another piece of advice from Sullivan: Listen to and obey a robber's demand: Don't argue.
"Anybody who is stupid enough to rob a bank, you don't know what they're capable of," Sullivan said.
"Don't try to disarm" them, he said. "You don't know who these people are. Please don't take any risks."
NOW YOU KNOW
-- Making sure your business or home is secure is key to preventing robberies and other crimes, Wichita police say. To arrange for a free security check, call police at (316) 268-4101.
Reach Tim Potter at (316) 268-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com].
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