Open season on banks in Tulsa and Oklahoma

Monday, September 27th 2004, 2:34 pm
By: News On 6

Times have changed in the bank-robbing business.

10 or 15 years ago, criminals in the Midwest tended to avoid banks because of the security and the federal charges they’d face if they were caught. But in the past few years, banks have been easy pickings. What’s changed? News on 6 crime reporter Lori Fullbright says part of it is a change in attitude.

Many banks, including Bank of America and Bank of Oklahoma, choose not to have security guards. Employees are trained to turn over the money, even when the robber doesn't have a weapon.

Part of that is no bank wants anybody hurt and also, robberies are cheaper than multi-million dollar lawsuits.

This man[pictured] robbed the Bank of America at 71st and US Highway 169 on Saturday. He robbed another Bank of America last month, and one before that in June and one before that in March, all in Tulsa.

Police say he always chooses a place with no security guard. He never says he has a gun or shows one; he doesn't even pass a note, he simply whispers that he wants 50's and 100's, gets them and walks off and it's started to tick the cops off. Tulsa Police Sgt Troy Rogers: "Frustration is that he keeps doing this in our town and it's like a slap in the face. He's successful and we wish he weren't, but, we're going to do everything in our power to effect his capture.”

Police would like to see banks make their no hats, no sunglasses policy mandatory, not voluntary. But banks say it's a delicate balance between tight security versus good customer service.

Banks say there are many things they can do, keep the doors locked and only admit known customers, have armed guards at every door and have bullet proof glass that shoots up between the teller and the robber, but should they do that to everybody when there are only a few robbers?

Kell Kelly, Spirit Bank CEO and the former Chairman of the Oklahoma Banking Association and says banks struggle to find the right balance. “In an open and free society, risks do exist and we have to weigh those as individuals and hopefully as an industry, we'll balance customer needs not to talk over an intercom or shake my hand and personal safety."

Some banks use exploding dye-packs and there is talk among some to go more hi-tech with GPS tracking devices, but there are pros and cons to each of those tactics, too.

From a simple business perspective, it makes more sense to lose money in a robbery that is insured than for someone to lose a life and the bank risk losing much more in the long run.