The following is the transcript of a conversation I had with a woman we’ll call Joanna Doe, a Teller Manager in the Atlanta metropolitan area.
PF: ———, first I want to thank you for agreeing to speak with me. I figured for sure you’d hang up once I told you the subject of this interview.
JD: Not at all. I think it’s so cool your book is finally coming out. I remember you talking about it all those years ago when we worked together.
PF: Don’t remind me. So how long have you been with the bank?
JD: Almost eighteen years.
PF: And how many robberies have you witnessed?
PF: That seems like a lot?
JD: At the old branch I worked at, we got hit at least once a year. I think the bank finally got around to installing bulletproof glass across the teller line.
PF: Were any of the robberies violent?
JD: A few. I remember one from way back. It was the day before Thanksgiving. Two men forced the branch manager, myself, three tellers and two customers at gun point into the vault and locked us inside.
PF: I always thought of you as like a combat veteran when it came to retail banking. It’s one of the reasons I thought to call you, too. And who better to ask how to rob a bank than someone who spends forty hours a week inside one.
JD: Well, I think we should figure out what kind of robbery we’re talking about here. A takeover? Hop the counter? Raid the vault? Or one-on-one with a single teller? In-and-out?
JD: First, if you have the time, I’d get to know your branch. You’re going to want to study the area. Observe the entrances and exits. Is there an Interstate nearby? How are the surface streets? The traffic patterns? And for God’s sake have somebody else drive and make sure you switch cars. The getaway’s the most important thing, right?
People are going to see you, too. Might see what vehicle you hop in. Dump it, wipe it down and change clothes.
And of course you’ll be on about fifteen different cameras.
PF: Seen a lot of disguises?
JD: Oh, sure. Men dressed as women. Women dressed as men. Ski masks, Halloween masks, wigs, fake beards, bandages. I had one guy walk in with his face covered in Saran wrap.
PF: So what else would you look for?
JD: Permanently posted cops or security guards would be a big no-no for me. I’d also be looking at how many employees are around for opening and closing procedures. Then watch during the day and see how much business the bank gets. Monday is a big deposit day. And you’re likely to see a lot of extra cash on the first and fifteenth.
PF: Seems like those would be good days to rob a bank?
JD: And the day after a holiday, too. If the branch has a night or after-hours deposit drop and a lot of commercial customers, you could be looking at a lot of cash on hand after the weekend.
PF: But tellers have limits?
JD: They do. It’s a chance you gotta take I suppose. Depending on who waits on you or who you decide to target. You just as well could get the teller-in-training with only a roll of dimes in their drawer.
PF: You don’t really need a gun, do you?
JD: Not at all. Every bank in this country trains employees to just fork over the cash. Pass a note or a paper bag with some instructions, you’re not going to get any resistance from me. If you want money that’s in a vault with a combination lock, though, you know the risk goes up. Some poor soul going into shock ain’t gonna have the steadiest hands in the world.
But if you’re cool and calm and don’t draw much attention, you’ll be out the door before anyone other than the teller you robbed knows what happened. Just be on the lookout for paint packs, GPS devices, that sort of thing. But trust me, no bank pays us enough. Nobody’s gonna be chasin’ you into the street. The money’s insured and ain’t mine. Take it! Be my guest! Think of me when you’re buyin’ your drugs or whatever.
PF: When do most robberies occur?
JD: The holidays. Christmas. It brings out the worst in people. They get desperate.
PF: How about time of day?
JD: 9 to 5. We once had a man walk into a financial rep’s office near closing time, faking like he wanted to open an account. As soon as he heard the doors lock and the cash counters firing up behind the teller line, he pulled out a .357 and put a hole in the ceiling. That got our attention.
PF: It’s a heavy thing to witness. Have all these near-death experiences taken a toll on you?
JD: Probably. The worst was the miscarriage I suffered after a guy stuck a gun in my face.
JD: It’s easier to talk about it now. I had a rough couple years, you know? Counseling, meds, all that.
PF: You ever thought of quitting?
JD: Oh, yeah. But I love what I do.