Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bank Robberies - what residents should know

It seems when I talk to people about crime, that bank robberies are the primary discussion point with home robberies coming a close second. I have come to understand the concerns of many people, so I thought I would write this little article to share my own thoughts on the subject. After discussing the issues with a few store owners, bank managers and various other people directly or indirectly involved who were willing to contribute their thoughts, I came to my own conclusions on the matter based on their stories and some of my own past experiences.

How many bank robberies have we had? Nine as of this moment, so nine times someone or some persons have entered a bank and told the tellers to give them all of their money. The average bank robbery takes about 75 seconds. Response from alerts are in the neighborhood of 2-5 minutes, even less sometimes. Typically a robber is in a bank barely over one minute. What do they want? The money, of course. What do they get? The money. There is a rise in bank robberies here in this general area as well as the Houston area. The problem is certainly not limited to The Woodlands. Most of the robberies are by one person, apparently a professional robber, using disguises. OK, now let's talk safety. Do they want to hurt someone? Not usually. No one has been injured. In fact and in general, they prefer that no customers be around.

How much are you at risk if you go into a bank? To know that, we need to know how many banks we have here. I can only guess. There is no point trying to count them. Let's say there are 20 stand-a-lone banks and another 20 in-store banks. The in-store banks are not as much of a target, because criminals do not want many witnesses and do not want to manage a bunch of people around them. They want the money and want to leave quickly.

You have the choice of going to one of these 40 banks to do business. Probably you will do business with only one bank company, so that limits your options. Now let's look at the amount of time you have to go into a bank and how long you would be there. Let's say a typical transaction takes 1 minute of your time and you are in line for 2 minutes. Add 2 more minutes to get into the bank and 2 minutes to leave. You may be on the premises for 7 minutes. Let's say you do this once a week. A standalone bank may be open for maybe 50 hours a week. That is 3000 minutes. So, if your bank is robbed once a week, in simplistic odds, you would have a 7 in 3000 chance each week of being there at the same time the robbers are there. There is another variable to this as well. Criminals like to pick times when the bank is not busy. So the chance of you being there is greatly diminished by that variable unless you never walk into the bank when there are other customers there. If the bank has not been robbed, then statistically, there is no risk. So you see where I am going with this. If I worked out a statistical equation with all the known variables, the risk of you being hurt is so minute, it would be incredible. In fact, we would have to use a statistic nationally to create any chance at all. Each variable would produce at least a factorial function in the equation to calculate your chance of being hurt. If you say you don't want to go to the bank because there are robberies, it is the same as saying you do not want to fly because there have been airplane crashes, with one exception. No one has been hurt in any of the incidents here, and rarely does it happen in a bank robbery. So as I noted, statistically, you almost cannot be hurt.

What do you do if you happen to be in a bank or present at any robbery? You simply avoid confrontation. Let the bandits do what they need to do to get their money. Be passive. The bank staff knows what to do. They are well trained. Follow their lead. If you get the chance, you may want to lie on the floor if you see a gun. People carry guns and some people will confront a robber, even though they should not risk your safety. If you have a license to carry, I advise not taking into a bank. You risk the health of others. Those who carry could be your worst enemy in such a situation. If the police arrive, you should be on the ground to help them, not being an obstruction or present yourself as a distraction, but exercise caution and do not move quickly or suddenly in the presence of the criminals. They will be very nervous. Not having an armed guard in a bank is for your safety. You may be less safe in a place with an armed guard. Anyway, the chance of you being hurt is very very very small.

The bottom line is that no matter where you are, you should always be aware of your surroundings and be mentally prepared for various situations, avoiding dangerous places. Park in lighted areas where there are non-suspicious people, lock you car, lock your house, set the alarms if you any, carry your keys in your hand as a weapon, or have some other measure you can exercise if physically threatened. Your cell phone can be a huge distraction. Use it appropriately. Don't be going around in parking lots or in stores without awareness of your surroundings and people about you. Texting on a cell phone in the parking lot? You may be the target of a criminal. These precautions are not singling us out here in The Woodlands. This is plain common sense you should use wherever you live and wherever you go. Some residents have relaxed their guard and provide opportunities for theft. Those who do are much more likely to be a victim of crime. We are not a place of high crime, but we are an urban area. Crime does and will exist here. We do not live in the country. Most of us do not live behind gates. We are no different than other urban areas, except we may know out neighbors better and have hometown relationships. Neighborhood Watch is a methodical way to establish a hometown relationship to prevent crime. It is advised that residents utilize that method to improve their neighborhood's vigilance.

It is not difficult to follow these guidelines. If you think you need more advice, maybe it would be good for you to research personal and property protection measures. Your safety is your responsibility. If you need police assistance with it, call the appropriate number - 911 for emergency, imminent danger or assistance required, or in The Woodlands, for non-emergency situations: 936-760-5800. Program these numbers into your cell and your home phone. Although you must use the emergency number sparingly, you will know when to use it and don't hesitate to do so when you know it is needed. If you question whether you should use it, generally you should not. At least that formula works well for me. Personally nothing has happened here to change the quality of my life. Be safe folks, but enjoy this place. It is one of the best places to live in the USA! Don't let fear rule your life. You be in control. Headlines are not alarms. They are simply what the news media think will generate the most sales in their newspapers.

Edited 08-17-09 to include information provided by Sgt Jenkins, Sheriff Dept.

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