With Security Up, Bank Robberies Down to 10-Year Low in Arkansas

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 12:00 am  

The two men who robbed a branch of Centennial Bank in Little Rock on Oct. 27 weren’t dealing with the same bank security they would have in 2006. That’s just one of the changes to the banking landscape in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of a teller five years ago:

  • The Arkansas Bankers Association now offers a reward of up to $5,000 for tips leading to the arrest of those involved in any Arkansas bank robbery.
  • Since 2006, banks across Arkansas have posted signs requesting bank customers not to wear hats, hoods or sunglasses inside bank buildings.

In addition, if the Oct. 27 robbers had researched the topic, they would know that about 85 percent of all bank robbers in Little Rock are caught.

The two men who robbed Centennial are part of a waning trend. According to data from the FBI, there were only 28 bank robberies in Arkansas in both 2010 and 2011, the lowest level in a decade. That number is down from a high of 58 in 2007. Data for 2012 is not yet available.

It was the shooting death of Metropolitan National Bank teller Jim Garison, 25, on Dec. 23, 2006, in Little Rock that spurred the reward program, as well as some added security measures that are now more common in the state.

The reward program is Arkansas’ first statewide bank robber reward program since the 1930s or ‘40s, said Bill Holmes, president and CEO of the Arkansas Bankers Association.

Further, the no hats or sunglasses requirement “keeps our people more aware,” Holmes said.

Bank representatives were reluctant to give specifics on security improvements and where they’ve been implemented, as a safety precaution.

However, Jeff Walker, a former federal agent with the Department of Defense, said banks now much more often hire armed, off-duty police officers as security guards than they did 10 years ago. Walker is the chairman of the department of criminal justice at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Walker didn’t cite the growing use of off-duty police officers in banks as a direct result of Garison’s shooting. But he said he’s seen the practice more widely in recent years as Arkansas banks have had time to see officers’ success as a better crime deterrent than private armed or unarmed security guards. Both research and his own observations show that off-duty officers are better deterrents, Walker said.

In addition, security technology like alarm systems and surveillance cameras has improved over time.

“Everything that has a camera on it is starting to improve,” Walker said. Recent innovations in camera phones exemplify the trend, he said. That “technology spreads out” into other sectors, he said.

“Technology in just about every field has been upgraded and improved almost progressively,” said Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas. “There’s new software being generated. … Systems are constantly upgraded. … Specifically how businesses apply those, that’s unique to the individual business model. But the technology is much better than it was five years ago.”

 

 

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