Police slowed by Kent bank error

Nate Ulrich

Kent city police said they lost valuable time in the pursuit of an armed, masked suspect who robbed the Chase Bank on Water Street on Aug. 24.

Lt. Michelle Lee said an employee from the bank failed to follow the correct procedure to notify police. When reporting a robbery on the telephone, bank employees must use a specific code so police know that a false alarm has not been triggered, Lee said.

Lee said the employee received additional training from the bank after the incident.

”(At) the Chase Bank, the procedure was not followed,” said Lee, who specializes in advising businesses on security. ”We were actually hung up on or someone was trying to transfer the call, so that was a mistake. The call got lost somehow, and we ended up having to retrace our steps.”

“Unfortunately, I think we did lose a minute or two.”

Lee said the lost time was especially costly because the suspect fled on foot.

Despite the mishap, Wilson said the four employees at the Chase Bank met their primary goal.

”The most important thing is safety,” Wilson said. ”We want the bank employees to get the bad guy in and out of the bank as quickly as possible to keep everybody safe in the bank. That’s the number one priority that we certainly tell the banks.”

Gary Marshall, a former district manager at Centran Bank, which is now Key Bank, said he was trained to cooperate with robbers.

”The banks always preached safety, not only to their employees but to their customers,” said Marshall, who was robbed at gunpoint when he was an Akron branch manager in the early 1970s. ”There’s no arguing with the perpetrator. You do exactly what they say and as quickly as you can. You want to get them the heck out of the bank.”

Wilson said bank employees also play important roles in securing evidence.

”(Banks are) very good at training their employees what to do before, during and after a bank robbery, which is crucial for us because a lot of the evidence that’s left behind by a robber actually is protected by bank employees,” he said.

Lee said the evidence at the Chase Bank was preserved.

”(The employees) need to not move around,” she said. ”It prevents the destruction of any evidence. It also prevents the loss of any evidence. If the robber was on foot, we don’t want to sully the scent of the robber because we have canines that can pick up the scent.”

Lee said a police dog did detect a scent at the Chase Bank and led officers behind Jordan Court apartments on Franklin Avenue, where it lost the scent.

Marshall said he took courses from police and the FBI that outlined how bank employees should react during a robbery. He said safety is the first priority, followed by description.

”After a robbery (employees) didn’t talk to one another,” Marshall said. ”What you saw, you retained. Don’t listen to the person next to you (because you might) change your mind or change your opinion. You say exactly what you saw, but don’t coordinate that effort prior to somebody’s arrival.”

Lee said employees who remain calm during and after a bank robbery are the most capable of helping authorities catch the suspect.

”We try to tell them to remain calm in their demeanor because if they remain calm, the descriptions are better,” she said.

Contact public affairs reporter Nate Ulrich at [email protected].