Minnesota Bank Heist Turns into Learning Opportunity

Nov. 29, 2004
Police, local bank managers study robbery prevention and crime recollection at scene of recent bank robbery

Now that a month has passed since New Market Bank in Lakeville, Minn., was robbed, Senior Vice President Greg Mosser can talk lightheartedly about the eerie coincidence.

The day before his bank was held up, a Lakeville police officer stopped by to ask Mosser about participating in a bank robbery-training program the department was launching.

"It wasn't funny at the time, but now you can say that the timing was interesting because we were finalizing plans for training," he said.

Mosser said while his employees receive regular training and the police program might not have prevented the robbery, such a class can only help them to be as prepared as possible. That's why Mosser has given the Police Department permission to hold a robbery-training session Wednesday at the very site of Lakeville's most recent heist. Five banks and about 30 employees will participate.

"We don't have any control over these type of events and when they're going to happen," Mosser said. "We just want to make sure we're trained."

Lakeville police launched the program after bank managers suggested it as something they would find useful. Before, the department only advised banks on security upon request.

"Unfortunately, this time of the year is when more bank robberies occur," said Lakeville police officer Kevin O'Neill, who is heading up the training program. "If anything, we want to emphasize safety first."

The outreach program, which is based on procedures recommended by the FBI, gives advice on security measures that could prevent banks from becoming a target. In the event of a robbery, the program offers tips and safety procedures in order to minimize risk of injury.

In addition to safety tips, a mock holdup is staged where a police officer plays an armed robber. Bank employees use the skills they've learned during the training for handling a robbery.

"Most armed robberies are really brief two to three minutes in length. We tried to keep it realistic," O'Neill said. "We wanted to get folks in the mindset so if this does occur, they know what to do and look for."

After the staged heist, employees are tested on their ability to preserve a crime scene meant to assist police with an investigation. They are also asked to describe the suspect to test their memory.

"Some folks are surprised by their ability to be right on the nose, and some are surprised at how off they were," O'Neill said. "It gives them some food for thought."

Mosser said the hands-on training is what distinguishes the police program from others.

When an event like that is going on, you don't want to think about what you should be doing next," he said. "You can give a lecture, but when (employees are) actually put in a mindset where this is something that could really happen, the point sticks more on what they should and shouldn't do."