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John Hollenhorst ReportingKent Hodson, CEO Credit Union One: “Last year was a banner year, I guess you might say, for robberies in the area.”
Banks and credit unions are fighting back against a tide of armed robberies. They're beginning to use new security measures that you may notice as a customer.
Bank robberies are not a daily occurrence in Utah, but last year they did shoot up to about two or three a week. And it’s beginning to change the way banks and credit unions do business.
They're getting fed up at a lot of financial institutions, especially the ones hit over and over again by robbers.
At one credit union branch they're trying out a new concept to make it hard for robbers, and tellers, to get their hands on a big pile of cash. It doesn't look like a traditional bank or credit union. There are no teller windows or counters. The tellers interact with customers alongside a vault-like machine.
Kent Hodson, CEO, Credit Union One: "There won't not be any ready access to cash. The tellers will not have any type of a cash drawer."
Tellers can help customers get cash out of the machine, but can access only one account at a time. The machine accepts cash deposits, but quickly sucks them out of sight. Tellers can't open the machine so robbers would be out of luck.
It's one innovation in the wake of a really bad year for robberies.
Kent Hodson, CEO, Credit Union One: "And so it's got us all thinking about what we need to do differently to make it not so convenient to do those robberies."
Bank and credit union robberies in Utah have been up and down over the last decade, but mostly up, peaking at a whopping 134 last year. Some institutions have been hit repeatedly. One had five robberies in the last two years.
Some are locking their doors, literally, opening only to known customers or people with identifiable business.
Kent Jorgensen, President, Beehive Credit Union: "We've been robbed a number of times and felt that we're going to try some things to combat that."
Some banks are beginning to separate customers from tellers with video cameras or bulletproof glass. Managers say security innovations catching on in Utah have been standard for years in Eastern states. They point out every robbery means traumatized employees.
Kent Hodson, CEO, Credit Union One: "A lot of times they have to quit, I mean they just can't function any more thinking it might happen again to them."
One bank employee told us today she worries that tellers will become a thing of the past, replaced by machines in a high-tech security environment. But others say that will never happen because customers will always have a need for human interaction.