Practice, practice, practice.
Practice procedures. Practice observation skills. And practice reactions to situations. That's the way to prepare yourself for a bank robbery.That advice was given to bank tellers and managers by FBI Special Agent John MacDonald at a "Brown Bag Seminar" for businesses sponsored by the Sandy City Police Department Wednesday.
The seminar is the first in a series the department plans to offer this summer, Sandy police Sgt. Kevin Thacker said. The seminars are designed to educate business owners and employees about different types of crimes and help them learn to protect themselves.
Future seminars will cover topics like check forgery, vehicle burglary and theft prevention, Thacker said.
Wednesday's topic - bank robberies - is especially timely, given a rash of robberies at banks across the Salt Lake Valley in recent months. Since January, the area has seen 43 robberies, MacDonald said. Nine of those came within one week in May.
But there are things tellers and bank managers can do to prepare themselves for a robbery, said MacDonald, who has investigated at least 300 bank robberies in his 20-year career in law enforcement.
Before a robbery, for example, bank employees should make sure they know and understand all bank procedures, including how to operate surveillance cameras, alarms and other security equipment.
During a robbery, activate those security devices as soon as possible and comply with whatever the robber asks.
"But do only what the robber demands," MacDonald said.
And after a robbery - lock the door, so the robber can't come back inside, and secure the crime scene. Don't lean on the counter where the robber may have left fingerprints or handle a note demanding money that he may have left behind, MacDonald said.
But perhaps the most important thing a bank employee can do is develop identification skills. A good description of the robber provides police with the best possible leads, MacDonald said.
He recommends practicing those skills every day by making mental notes about people. After taking a quick look at someone, look away and then try to describe them, he suggests. Then look back and see how well you did.
"The more you practice your observation skills, the more natural you'll become at it," MacDonald said.
Seminar participants said much of what MacDonald said made sense. Most banks do train employees in procedures, but don't always review them on a regular basis.
"We're definitely going to go back and focus on the practice, practice, practice," said Lynn Whittaker of Wells Fargo Bank in Sandy. "I'm looking forward to the next seminar on check forgeries."