Monday , January 21, 2008
SARASOTA, Fla. —Responding to a more than one-third hike in bank robbery, the Florida Bankers Association is urging its members to adopt new rules.
Not additional guards or cameras, but a dress code for customers.
The group rolled out a "No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses" program, which includes lobby signs asking customers to remove those items before approaching a teller.
Those who refuse would be directed to an area with more security or a more experienced teller.
"Bankers aren't just going to hope robbers won't come," FBA president Alex Sanchez said. "The 'No Hats' program is one more layer of protection for banks, employees and bank customers."
The dress code is optional, and some banks say they have no plans to adopt it. Wachovia, among the largest banks in Florida, is one of them.
"We realize and recognize that there are circumstances, such as religious traditions, that might make this offensive to some of our customers," Wachovia spokeswoman Kathy Harrison said.
Florida was ninth in the country for bank robberies in 2006, with 265. That number climbed to 361 robberies last year, in which more than $2.4 million was swiped.
The FBA says some 40 percent of all bank robberies involve some kind of facial disguise: masks, helmets or other head coverings.
"While it may take some time for customers to become accustomed to it, once they understand it is for the safety of bank employees and for customers like themselves, they will be more willing to participate," said FBA spokeswoman Renee Thompson.
It has worked in other states. Missouri, for example, reportedly saw a 47 percent drop in bank heists after adopting it in 2002.
"We believe we'll see immediate benefits," said Rick Lee, FBA chairman and president of Citizens Bank of Florida in Oviedo.