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FBI Says Local Banks Must Do More To Protect Themselves From Robberies

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Thieves have hit 21 banks in Raleigh this year, compared to 17 in 2001. There were three bank robberies in Wake County on Dec. 11 alone.

Despite those numbers, the FBI is shifting its focus away from bank robberies, claiming local banks must do more to protect themselves.

The FBI has cut the number of agents assigned to bank robberies in half. Agents say they don't have time to chase people like Pamela Aiken, who was arrested for robbing a BB&T bank in Raleigh - one of the three holdups on Dec. 11.

While the feds focus on terrorism, they say local banks should look to Los Angeles, where robberies dropped 80 percent after banks installed tighter security systems.

Bankers point out the Triangle is a long way from L.A.

"It's not like using snow equipment," said Thad Woodard of the N.C. Bankers Association. "People from snowy parts of the country laugh at us here in North Carolina, but we don't get much snow, and we can't afford that much equipment.

"Some California banks are installing double doors called mantraps or bandit barriers. The customer walks through the first door and is scanned by a metal detector. If it picks up a weapon, the second door locks, so the customer can't get inside the bank.

"It's something that you can't carte blanche say needs to be put in place today," Woodard said. "Maybe things will develop over time piecemeal, but not in North Carolina at this time."

Banking executives say they're constantly upgrading security.

The Fidelity Bank in Morrisville installed monitors to remind people they're being watched. Other banks are guarded by off-duty police officers.

More than 70 percent of North Carolina bank robberies are solved, thanks in part to a tipline. The Bankers Association offers a $5,000 reward for calls that lead to an arrest.

The number to call is

800- 209-2293.