Following robberies banks say safety is priority

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Recent bank robberies in the Grand Strand have worried some customers, but bank managers say safety is a priority.

Two bank robberies in the Socastee area happened the same day on Wednesday. They followed six other bank robberies in Horry County since the beginning of December.

Although South Atlantic Bank has not been robbed, Vice President and Director of Marketing Barbara Marshall shared some thoughts about bank safety Thursday.

"At South Atlantic Bank we take the safety and security of our customers very seriously," Marshall said.

After the recent bank robberies, she said it is important for customers to know that they can feel comfortable going to a bank.

"We use cameras as a deterrent to crime, and we also make sure our employees are trained in appropriate robbery responses," she said.

Marshal said she could not be more specific about that training. Managers at other banks declined to provide specifics too, but said the training includes protocol to be sure the bank does not look like an easy target, and also ways to react so customers and employees are not hurt during a robbery.

Angelia Johnson, Vice President of Marketing at Carolina Trust Federal Credit Union said banks also often enforce a "no hat, no hoods, no sunglasses" policy. Employees will ask individuals to remove such items before service is provided, she said in a written statement.

When it comes to catching the robbers, Sgt. Robert Kegler with Horry County Police said although bank robbery is a federal crime, it is the local police who respond first, and it is important to get information out quickly.

"As soon as the first supervisor gets there that can pull some video or pull some photos and get them to me, I want to get them out to the public while it's still fresh in somebody's mind," Kegler said.

He said the public can be a key to immediately naming a suspect, but investigators also have evidence from the scene and witness statements that can be helpful. Just a day after the robberies on Wednesday, investigators found themselves trying to piece together the clues.

"Seeing if there's maybe anyone else that they haven't interviewed or want to take a second interview at, going over the surveillance tape, checking to see if there's any tips that have been called in," he explained.

Local police departments also work with FBI investigators because bank robbery is a federal offense.

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