Tuesday, 15 March 2011 14:27

Bank Teller Safety: The Situation in Germany

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Working in the Bank: Now Safer for the Personnel

What long-term measures can be taken to reduce the attraction of robbing a bank? The new provisions in Germany’s Accident Prevention Regulation (APR) for “Teller’s window” (VBG 120) significantly minimizes the risk to employees of being injured or killed in bank robberies.

A precise knowledge of the conduct of bank robbers is crucial. To this end, the Administration Trade Organization has been studying bank robberies since 1966. These studies have shown that, for example, bank robbers prefer small bank branches with few employees. Approximately one-third of bank robberies occur shortly after opening or just before closing. The goal is to leave the robbed bank as quickly as possible (after 2 or 3 minutes) and with the largest possible haul. Many bank robbers work under the wide-spread misconception that DM 100,000 and more can be taken from a teller’s window. The results of these and other studies are contained in the sections “Building and equipping” and “Operations” in the “Teller’s window” APR. Measures that drastically reduce the bank robbers’ expectations are proposed here to protect the employee. The success of these measures depends upon the employees strictly adhering to them in daily practice.

What basic requirements are set in the “Teller’s window” APR? In paragraph 7 of the “Teller’s window” APR, the central requirement is laid out: “Protecting the insured requires securing the banknotes so as to considerably reduce the incentive for robbery”.

What does that mean in daily practice? Easily accessible money should be kept and worked with in publicly accessible areas only within rooms separated from the public by bullet-proof or break-proof sections.

The maximum amount of accessible money allowed is given in paragraph 32: a combined maximum of DM 50,000 is allowed if there are bullet-proof tellers’ windows, other break-proof safeguards and at least 6 employees present. DM 10,000 may not be exceeded when using break-proof safeguards (but not bullet-proof tellers’ windows) in connection with containers equipped with time-staggered releases. There must be at least 2 employees present at all times, who must be in eye-contact.

To keep the incentive for bank robbery as low as possible, amounts of accessible money should be kept well below the maximums set in the “Teller’s window” APR. In addition, paragraph 25 calls for company instructions to set the maximum allowable accessible amounts for each branch. Larger amounts necessary for business and other needs should be secured in time-lock containers to make access by bank robbers more difficult.

Tellers’ windows that are not equipped with bullet-proof or break-proof safety guards and have no central money supply facility or employee-operated automatic teller machine should not have any accessible banknotes on hand.

Securing Windows and Doors

Personnel entrance and exit doors to teller areas containing cash must be secured against viewing or entering from outside, so that bank robbers cannot easily intercept employees entering and leaving bank rooms. The employee must be able to ensure, with built-in peepholes, that no danger exists.

To prevent unnoticed entrance by bank robbers into bank rooms, door closers must ensure that doors are always kept closed.

Since a considerable incentive for theft arises from viewing banknotes, windows behind which banknotes are handled must be secured against viewing or penetrating. Statistics show that holding strictly to this requirement results in very few bank robberies through windows or personnel entrances.

In contrast to personnel entrance and exit doors, doors for public traffic must have a clear view. Bank robbers can thereby be recognized early and an alarm sounded to bring assistance. Therefore it is important that the view not be obstructed by placards or the like.

Optimal Room Surveillance

In order to be able to identify the bank robber as quickly as possible, and to have effective evidence for court, optimal room surveillance equipment is prescribed in the “Teller’s window” APR. This is also important for determining whether the robber extorted money or threatened employees, since particularly brutal actions increase the penalty. Good pictures reduce the incentive to rob a bank.

The instruction “Installation directions for optimal room surveillance equipment (ORSE) SP 9.7/5” of July 1993 permitted only individual cameras as standard ORSE. Photographs are superior to video shots for identification because of greater detail recognition, resulting in better evidence. The disadvantage lies in the fact that photos are available only after the camera is triggered. Because of technical advances, the Administration technical committee now also permits the use of video cameras as possible ORSE. The corresponding instruction is now being prepared; it provides that the limited resolution of video pictures should be compensated for by using 2 views. For this, at least 2 cameras must be installed for recognizing the robber and for videotaping essential events.

Appropriate installation of the video technology can continuously record, and a “wanted” photo can thus be available without special triggering. The further advantages of the system include colour shots, quicker availability of “wanted” photos, transmission of the pictures to the police even during the robbery and the ability to constantly check the functioning of the camera.

Teller’s Window Security

The “Teller’s window” APR authorizes:

  • bullet-proof and break-proof glass enclosures and tellers’ booths
  • power-driven separations
  • break-proof separations in connection with bullet-proof screens
  • central money supply equipment
  • employee-operated teller machines.

Furthermore, customer-operated teller machines support the requirements of paragraph 7, since their use can reduce the amount of money in the booth or separated room.

In order to comply with the “Teller’s window” APR, the number of employees needed at the counter and the amounts to be taken in and paid out (quantity and number) must be known before a tellers’ counter is built or remodeled. Optimal security can be achieved only when counter security corresponds to the actual flow of business.

Constant Presence with Eye contact

Certain teller security measures require a minimum of 2 to 6 employees having eye contact with each other. This requirement flows from the recognition that bank robbers prefer smaller branches with higher yields, where the tellers, when threatened with a gun, cannot withdraw behind bullet-proof shielding.

Break-proof teller shielding can be used only when 6 employees with eye contact are always present in the counter area. This does not mean a 6-person location, where not everyone is always at their workplace due to vacation, sickness, customer visits and so on. Experience shows that this condition can be fulfilled only when 8 to 10 employees work at the location. Alternatively, a floater service can possibly be used to ensure the necessary minimum number of employees.

To guarantee the constant presence of 2 employees with eye contact, the location must have 3 to 4 positions.

It is important that the facility not be opened before the required minimum number of employees are present. When consultations are taking place in adjoining rooms, the minimum number of employees at the windows must still be maintained.

Security through Separation

Small branches

“Small branches” are those where the presence of at least 2 employees with eye contact in the counter area is not ensured. For these branches, bullet-proof shielding in connection with break-proof separations offers good protection, since the employee does not have to leave the secured area in the event of a robbery. Consultations are carried on in an area protected by break-proof shielding. Good communication is possible here. The bullet-proof shield, behind which the accessible cash must be kept, should be placed so that employees cannot be threatened with a weapon from the customer area. Money transactions take place by way of a prescribed hatch or sliding drawer. Since the employee must go into the bullet-proof-secured area in the event of an attack, the necessary personal security is provided. This area must not be left under any circumstances, including while handing money over to the robber.

Bullet-proof full separation presents an alternative for 1- to 3-person teller operations. It offers mechanical protection against the typical bank robbery, since all employees are separated from the robber by bullet-proof shielding. The disadvantage here is that communication with customers is reduced in the interest of security. So full bullet-proof separation is appropriate only for small branches.

Larger branches

The teller’s booth is a form of security in which only the teller’s work station is separated from the customer area. This possibility makes sense only for teller jobs in which the teller is fully occupied by his or her work in the booth and does not have to leave it.

Before installing a booth, it is necessary to determine whether the teller is fully occupied handling money. In smaller branches with only 2 to 4 employees, this is often not the case. If the teller has other tasks outside the booth, the security requirements of the APR are not met, since the teller is supposed to always be separated from the customers for protection against bodily attack. In practice what repeatedly happens is that while the teller is performing tasks outside the booth, the door is held open with a wedge or the key is left in the lock. Thus the security of the teller’s booth is compromised, which is of great interest to potential robbers.

The bullet-proof teller’s booth does hinder communication between the teller and customers. But since longer discussions take place in unsecured workplaces anyway, this does not present a big problem. More serious problems include ensuring draft-free ventilation and air-conditioning in small teller’s booths.

For power-driven separations, a movable steel wall, built into the counter, is raised in emergencies by way of several arranged triggers in second intervals. This creates a bullet-proof separation, with the employees behind it in a secure area. To prevent a robber from entering unnoticed, it must be activated whenever there are no employees in the vault area, or when work is being done that requires personnel to turn away from the counters. In order to avoid constant activation of the steel wall, this type of security should be used only in 2- to 4-person teller areas.

Furthermore, the tellers’ workstations can be isolated with bullet-proof separations. For this, full separations for all employees as well as tellers’ booths can be installed. This form of security, however, requires the constant presence of at least 6 employees with constant eye contact in the main hall.

Bullet-proof full separation and tellers’ booths can also be used when a minimum of 2 employees are present with eye contact and the accessible cash does not exceed DM 10,000. A time-release money container is required in this case so that the teller does not constantly have to leave the secured area to restock. Bank robbers avoid teller positions where they can expect only a small amount of cash or have to wait a long time for it. In this case, notice of the time-release container at the entrance and in the tellers’ area is important for the employees’ protection. This makes immediately clear to the potential robber that the employee has no control over the container and that only a small haul can be expected.

Security without Accessible Banknotes in the Main Hall

Security is possible even without building a separation between the employees and the customer area. But for this to reduce the incentive, no accessible quantities of money can be in the tellers’ area. Money taken in must be immediately secured. The money is kept in a cash box in an area not open to the public, so it cannot be threatened by the robber. The employees receive the necessary amounts of money through a tube delivery system in the main hall. Money taken in is sent to the cash box by this means. No minimum number of employees in the main hall is prescribed in this case. This type of security, however, results in longer waiting times for customers. The advantage is that bank robbers have virtually no chance of getting anything in a robbery.

Employee-operated automatic teller machines (ATMs) are a second way to make payments with cash that is not accessible in the main hall. These, referred to by the bank as AKT-designated machines, contain 4 to 6 magazines for holding banknotes in a time-released secured container. For payments, the required amount is called up using a keyboard, with which an alarm can also be sounded in emergencies. The money is delivered to the employee after a time delay. The length of the delay depends upon the amount of money and is set in paragraph 32 of the “Teller’s window” APR. These are set so that good service is possible, but the robber is scared off by the longer waiting times for larger amounts. Cash receipts should be secured by use of time- or double-closing containers.

At least 2 employees with eye contact must be constantly present when using an employee-operated ATM. For this reason, this form of security is appropriate only for locations in which 3 to 4 employees work. Discussions can take place in a conference room only when 2 or more employees are present in the customer area during the discussion.

In the case of a technical problem in an employee-operated ATM, appropriate instructions and measures should be prepared. These should include an emergency cash box and corresponding organizational procedures to ensure that work proceeds in accordance with the “Teller’s window” APR.

Company Directives and Instructions

The employer must prepare company directives for every teller’s window and regularly check on compliance. These directives should outline the possible events during a robbery and describe what to do during and after the robbery. Furthermore, daily instructions should be given, and use of the installed security equipment should be mandated. This is especially true when larger amounts of accessible banknotes are present. Instructions should also prescribe the manner of safekeeping for other valuable objects. Employees at the windows should be instructed in these company policies at least twice a year.

The purpose of these instructions is clear—to ensure that the employees follow the requirements of the “Teller’s window” APR for their own protection, and to significantly reduce the incentive for robbing a teller’s window.



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