Banks in L-A beef up security


LEWISTON – The branch of Bank of America that was robbed for the second time in three weeks Tuesday is hiring a local, off-duty police officer to be stationed at the bank, police said Wednesday.

Police are following up leads from the Sabattus Street robbery in which a masked man made off with an undisclosed amount of cash. He disappeared after abandoning the car he used to flee the bank.

Police are continuing to seek the most recent owner of that car, which had expired license plates but didn’t appear to be stolen.

Meanwhile, some area banks have taken extra safety precautions.

At Five County Credit Union at Ash and Park streets, a sign taped to the lobby door asks customers to take off certain clothing and accessories, such as hats, hoods and sunglasses.

“For your safety and ours, please remove these items before entering,” the sign states. It pictures various portraits featuring forbidden clothing in circles with lines through them.

Bank officers put up the signs last week, after the Bank of America’s first robbery.

All area credit unions were offered the signs a month ago, said Branch Manager Therese Samson-Blais. At first, none were interested. Now, she said, the signs have gained in popularity.

“The robbers have upped the ante and we need to start doing something,” she said.

That’s not the only safety measure the bank is taking.

Tellers keep surveillance photos of suspects from prior bank robberies behind the counter, she said. Workers are trained to be aware of their customers and leery of those who are acting suspiciously. They’re kept up to date on recent robberies in the area. Tellers were told to treat robbers just like any other customer so nobody would get hurt.

“Everybody’s kind of nervous,” she said. “We were saying today we haven’t been hit. We’re hoping they forgot where we are.”

She said the bank’s location isn’t in the best part of the city, but it is less than two blocks from the police station. She hopes that has been a deterrent.

Bank of America has not posted signs at its area branches, said bank spokesman Ernesto Anguilla. As for changes in security, the bank doesn’t comment on those measures, he said.

A spokesman for Androscoggin Bank, whose Turner Street, Auburn, branch was robbed last month, said the bank has made no obvious changes to its security policies.

“Nothing special” was done, said David Norburg, a marketing officer at the bank. “We haven’t instigated any additional training.”

Bank workers appeared to do the right thing, he noted. The alleged robber of that branch was captured shortly after the heist because local police had staked out the bank.

A Lewiston crime analyst who helped predict that robbery is working on the Bank of America robberies, police said.

They’re looking at the possibility that the two robberies at that branch may have been committed by the same person, said Lt. Michael McGonagle.

If that’s the case, Samson-Blais said the robber would have to be pretty brazen.

“It’s kind of scary,” she said.