Robbery Training Ensures That All Employees Are Prepared

It’s funny how the little details stick in your mind.

The dark sunglasses. The black baseball cap. The nervous, fidgety glances around the branch before a note slides across the teller window that says, “This is a robbery. Empty the drawer.”

But in the emotionally wrenching aftermath of a robbery, remembering those kinds of details could be the key to catching a thief. It might be why every 2012 bank robbery case in Oregon except one has been solved.

And it’s certainly why credit unions should make sure that policies and procedures are in place and that every employee knows what’s expected of them before, during and after a robbery, according to Katie Clark, who worked as a bank security officer and a credit union compliance officer before joining the Northwest Credit Union Association as a regulatory analyst.

“Over the years, I have seen many co-workers and employees handle their robbery experiences differently,” says Clark, who helped with training by staging mock robberies at the credit union where she worked. “Everyone reacts differently to stressful and emotional situations. Having a plan in place ensures that the team accomplishes everything that has to be done after such a traumatic event.”

There were 5,014 bank robberies in the U.S. in 2011—the most recent statistics available from the FBI. That includes 154 in Washington and 96 in Oregon. Most of the robberies were committed at commercial banks, but the national total does include 398 robberies at credit unions.

FBI statistics also show that:

  • The total loot taken in 2011 (cash, securities, checks and other property) was $38,331,491.85;
  • Most bank robbers are men, and the most popular time to commit a robbery is between 3-6 p.m. on Friday, although the crimes were pretty evenly split throughout the week; and
  • Use of a demand note is, by far, the most common robbery method. Firearms are used in less than half of all robberies—but threatened in nearly 80 percent.

Clark recently participated in robbery training at Providence Federal Credit Union and Oregonians Federal Credit Union, where employees were assured that there are a lot of steps credit unions can take to prevent robberies from happening, stop them before they start, or aid police in catching a robber after a robbery has occurred.

“The training really was about best practices, not specific procedures,” Clark says. “But credit unions can often use this information to supplement their own policies.”

That’s exactly how Oregonians Federal Credit Union used its Columbus Day training session.

“We like to augment our internal training with external sources,” says Sam Launius, the executive vice president of Oregonians Federal Credit Union. Ninety-five percent of the information matched the credit union’s procedures, he says, while the remaining 5 percent “provided a great opportunity for us to discuss why we might diverge in one area or another due to branch specifics.”

Much of the training involved information on what to look for during a robbery and the steps employees should take after a crime is committed. Clark also shared what Launius calls “stupidest robber” stories.

“We were actually able to share one of our own stories,” Launius says, “about a robber who went through our roof in an attempt to access an ATM. He was thoughtful enough to not only leave behind a flashlight with his name on it, but also several drops of blood for DNA matching.”

There’s nothing stupid about good customer service, though, and Clark says that can go a long way toward preventing robberies:

  • Employees should acknowledge everyone—members or not—who walks into the branch, for example. Most robbers don’t want to be noticed, Clark says, so simply offering exceptional member service could derail a robbery before it starts.
  • Employees should practice and use their observation skills and enforce the credit union’s “no hats/no sunglasses” rule, and the branch should check cameras and test alarms regularly. Make sure everyone in the branch knows where the robbery kit is, Clark adds, and that they know how to use it.

And if a robbery does happen?

“Stay calm,” Clark says. “While everyone reacts differently to a robbery, the most important thing for you to do is to get the robber out of the branch as quickly as possible.”

For more information about robbery training, contact Katie Clark at 503.350.2221 or


Questions? Contact Gary Stein: 503.350.2216,

Posted in Federal.