Here is the FBI’s official data on robberies of financial institutions, including injuries and deaths for 2006.
- Bank robberies: 6,154 (88%)
- Credit union robberies: 521 (7%)
- Other (e.g., check cashing): 372 (5%)
- Number of incidents in which injuries occurred: 94 (1.3%)
- Customer: 17
- Employee: 75
- Employee Family: 0
- Perpetrator: 17
- Law Officer: 8
- Guard: 5
- Other: 7
- Number of incidents in which deaths occurred: 13 (0.2%)
- Customer: 0
- Employee: 1
- Employee Family: 0
- Perpetrator: 10
- Law Officer: 1
- Guard: 1
- Other: 0
Credit unions aren’t robbers favorite targets. Small branches with no or small vaults lack the significant stockpiles of cash that tantalize robbers. Also, many CU branches are off the beaten path, and robbers prefer easy access to main roads, thoroughfares and freeways – the quick, easy getaway.
CUs can probably also thank their image for fewer robberies. Robbers may not see CUs as big, lucrative “scores” for the same reasons many people struggle to see CUs as full-service financial providers.
Unfortunately, the FBI either does not publish or doesn’t have data comparing robberies and injuries/deaths vs. various security measures vs. branch size/designs vs. cash handling systems.
As a financial institution responsible for your staff’s safety, it likely that your fears of employee injury and death exceed the reality. Only 1.5% of all robberies result in the injury or death of an employee – and that’s assuming you get robbed in the first place. Applying this ratio to CU robberies means that only five credit union employees are injured every year across the country from robberies. And only one credit union employee is killed every five years in the course of a robbery.
Statistically speaking, working in a CU is probably safer than working in a bar, night club or gas station. And it has to be a lot safer than working in construction jobs.
Reality Check #1: Just because you are in a cash-intensive business doesn’t mean you need to build your branches like fortresses.
When you wall your employees off behind bullet-proof glass, you’re erecting a barrier between you and the people you serve – physically, visually and aurally. This is a literal roadblock to building relationships.
Reality Check #2: You can’t have bullet-proof “bandit barriers” if you’re going to say you’re “all about warm, friendly, personal service.”
Do people really feel comfortable discussing sensitive financial subjects through a four-inch hole in an inch-thick sheet of acrylic?
Employee safety wouldn’t be an issue if your branches didn’t get robbed. Bullet-proof glass is a treatment for a symptom, not the root problem, and there are other things you can do to deter robbers.
For starters, you can move your teller lines as far away from the entrance as possible, and cutoff sightlines between the transaction zone and any exits. Robbers get uneasy with each step they take further into a branch, and they get really uncomfortable when they can’t see an exit at the height of the robbery.
Simply saying “hi” to a robber when he comes in to scope the branch is often enough to scare him off (hint: “greeters”).
Reality Check #3: Your average architect doesn’t know how to design “robbery-resistant branches.” Most local architects will design branches that look just like everyone else’s…because “that’s what branches are supposed to look like, right?”
- Building branches like Fort Knox makes you look just like everyone else.
- You can reduce your risk of robbery with careful branch design and how you manage your in-branch experience.
- A well-engineered branch not only mitigates risk of robbery, it also builds your brand and helps cultivate relationships