Greenwood Police consider tactics to deter bank robberies

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After a record year for bank robberies, Greenwood Police are considering bringing back an old tactic to deter thieves.

The strategy involves parking squad cars in bank parking lots.

Thieves looking for cash, holding up tellers and scaring customers was a scene that played out again in Greenwood last year.

Some of the crimes came with growing violence, like the robbery at First Merchants Bank on December 20th, where the armed robbers used zip ties on tellers.

"They tied those women up in there and they were thrown to the floor and treated roughly and had guns stuck to their heads," explained Greenwood Assistant Chief Matthew Fillenwarth.

Another bank was hit two days later - the second time it had been robbed in four months.

Police call 2012 a record year for bank robberies in Greenwood. There were six in the city in 2012. That's more than the previous six years combined. The last, smaller spike (four bank robberies) happened in 2005.

There's a key correlation with those statistics.

It's a strategy police started in 2006 but ended right before the bank robberies picked up again: parking older squad cars outside banks to deter criminals.

"We found that to be a great use for our cars, just moving them from bank to bank, parking them in the parking lots," Fillenwarth said. "They'll look at the bank and say why should I take the chance of robbing this bank here in Greenwood?"

The results were immediate.

Bank robberies dropped off.

In July 2006, a bank security director who'd been hit multiple times by bank robbers, told Eyewitness news as soon as police visibility increased with squad cars in parking lots, the crime stopped.

But a previous administration decided to drop the program and sold the old squad cars in 2011.

That's just when bank robberies increased again in Greenwood.

Now, police are considering bringing back the old tactic.

"The chief and I have been talking about just that," Fillenwarth said. "We do have some extra cars available to us now because we have been starting to roll over some of our fleet. Basically we got the cars, now logistically how can we make that program work again?"

Fillenwarth says he'd like to see the program tweaked a bit, by making sure squad cars are moved from bank to bank more frequently.

He says with a tight budget, there's also an issue of manpower and money, so he doesn't have to pull patrol officers away to move the cars.

Already, Greenwood police have increased patrols around banks.

Now they believe the old strategy in the parking lots may make thieves think twice before hitting a bank in their community.