Perhaps you've noticed that bank robbery has become a rather mundane activity in the USA, rather akin to robbing the local convenience store. Dan Barry explains why in Friendly Bank Makes It Easy for Robbers:
What is it about Commerce Bank? Why does it seem to attract those who prefer using the threatening note to the more traditional bank slip? Who insist on making cash withdrawals without technically having an account? Who are in such a hurry that they don't even have time to accept a complimentary pen?Sigh, I'm of an age that remembers when banks, if not exactly fortress-like, were a little bit formidable.
The answer cannot simply be an extreme interpretation of the company's slogan: "America's Most Convenient Bank." There must be other explanations for why this New Jersey company has captured a healthy share of the city's bank robber market, generating the kind of buzz you just can't buy among the Rikers Island cognoscenti.
Commerce has had 14 bank robberies in Manhattan since January, a reach-for-the-sky number that exceeds by one the number of its Manhattan branch offices. Some of its larcenous visitors have stolen a few thousand dollars; others, just a few hundred. Some exude a "don't give me no dye pack" air of sophistication; others seem only vaguely aware that they are in a bank.
The police offered advice. Stop looking like cosmetics counters and return to a style that says you handle cash, not inquiries about eye shadow. Put up Plexiglas dividers called bandit barriers. Make surveillance cameras more prominent. Hire security guards; call them "greeters" if you like. Make the smile in "service with a smile" less doltish.
The police have adopted a kind of "Goofus and Gallant" model to reinforce its message. The Gallant is Amalgamated Bank, which has all the recommended — though not foolproof — security measures, including bandit barriers. It has not had a successful holdup at any of its seven branches in more than a decade.
Although many banks might have qualified for Goofus, the police settled on the brash new kid, Commerce. "Commerce does very little of what we recommend," Mr. Browne said. For example, he said, "They've told our detectives they have no interest in ever putting in the barriers."
In June, two Commerce branches were robbed on the same day — the company's 12th and 13th reported robberies this year. A few days later, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly made an unannounced visit to the grand opening of a Commerce branch in TriBeCa. He was not there to collect a balloon, but rather to point out, yet again, the absence of bandit barriers.
The next day, the Commerce branch at Third Avenue and 43rd Street was robbed — for the fourth time this year. The robber reached across the teller's counter, grabbed more than $2,000 in cash and hustled past a "greeter" who thought he was just another happy customer.
The branch manager did not want to discuss the robberies at his bank this week. But he did offer a free pen.