It Can Happen Anywhere by Mike Burke, Robbery & Crisis Management Consultant, SHAZAM

Everybody knows everybody in a small town. This can create a cocoon of comfort where people think, “Nothing ever happens here.” This familiarity leads to a trust that makes security seem less important. However, that bubble can burst in an instant. Banks and credit unions in small towns are just as

susceptible to criminal threats and activities as those in the bigger cities. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking serious criminal activity is a rare occurrence in a rural area. Here’s what you can do. Cameras are an obvious first step. Make sure

there are plenty of internal cameras that can capture a person’s face. A shot of the top of someone’s head doesn’t help as much as a facial picture when it comes to recognition and identification. Inside the building, those cameras are just as

important. Employees likely won’t remember what a criminal looks like after a robbery. The stress of a robbery or the threat of a weapon can lead to tunnel vision. They’re not going to remember details about faces, voices and other identifying features. At the open and close of business every day,

make sure there are at least two staff members at your institution. The old adage, “There’s safety in numbers,” is common for a reason. You can also make the building safer to open and

close just by looking around. Eliminate some of the risk by simply updating the building’s landscaping. Are there bushes or other small structures outside the building where a criminal can wait and hide? If so, get rid of them. When it comes to observing suspicious behaviors,

go with your gut reaction and pay attention to seemingly small details. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. A lot of times, a criminal may be casing

your business for 24–72 hours prior to the actual robbery or other crime. Criminals will sometimes come in the lobby

and start asking weird, non-financial questions about armed security and business hours. In some cases, they might just walk in, not talk to any employees and only look for cameras and exit doors. If someone is lingering in the lobby without doing business, if it’s an unfamiliar face, or if he or she keeps hanging around outside, it should send up a red flag. All of these preventative measures should be

paired with a thoughtful program on how employees should deal with hypersensitivity after a crime has occurred. A proper care and assistance program must be in place for their mental and physical health. If you miss this step, it can cause problems that

linger long after an incident. One common issue is called group thinking. After a traumatic situation, the two or three

employees who were at the scene might band together in their hypervigilance because their stress issues aren’t being handled appropriately. This can lead to alienation from the rest of the staff, escalation of their fears and potentially resignation of the employees who went through a disturbing situation. Don’t lose a valued, 20-year employee because

a situation wasn’t handled correctly. That could be decades of staff-member experience washed right down the drain. So, what’s the best way to deal with these issues?

Have a plan and discuss it prior to any incident happening. Security doesn’t change because of geography or demographics. No matter the size of your institution, investing in the safety and security of your customers and staff is time and resources well spent.

Security doesn’t change because of geography or demographics. No matter the size of your institution, investing in the safety and security of your customers and staff is time and resources well spent.

The SHAZAM Network is a national member-owned financial services company providing choice and flexibility to community financial institutions throughout the U.S. since 1976. SHAZAM is a single-source provider of the following services: debit card, core, fraud, marketing, merchant and more. Mike Burke ( can be reached at 515-288-2828, ext 2903.

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