Bank association announces new anti-robbery strategies

Friday, June 28th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BOSTON (AP) _ In response to a sharp increase in bank robberies following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Massachusetts Bankers Association is recommending several security enhancements, including a ban on hats, hoods and sunglasses in financial institutions.

The association also unveiled a new ``Massachusetts Most Wanted'' Web site that will display the surveillance photos of suspected bank robbers and other criminals. A reward program funded by voluntary contributions from banks will reward tipsters who help nab bank robbers.

``If you're a bank customer, we're improving your safety,'' said association spokesman Bruce Spitzer. ``If you're a bank robber, we're pursuing you vigorously.''

Most of the recommendations, which federal, state, and local law enforcement helped develop, will be kept confidential for security reasons, Spitzer said.

Bank robberies in Massachusetts increased by 70 percent last year, from 156 in 2000 to 265 in 2001, according to FBI figures. Ninety of the robberies occurred after Sept. 11. Through the first quarter of this year, there have been 37 bank robberies in Massachusetts.

``Perhaps there was a feeling that everyone was too busy working terrorism to work bank robberies,'' said Charles Prouty, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office.

A general downturn in the economy and the tightening of borders post-Sept. 11 also contributed to the increase, authorities said. Tighter borders limit drug trafficking, leading to an increase in the cost of drugs, making addicts more desperate for money.

The vast majority of bank robberies are drug-related, Spitzer said.