Bank Robber Barriers

By Tony Shin
|  Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011  |  Updated 7:17 AM PDT
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In the past few months a <a title=Riverside County company has installed bandit barriers in five San Diego-area banks and more orders are coming in. NBCSanDiego tested the security of the glass in this special report from Tony Shin." />

In the past few months a Riverside County company has installed bandit barriers in five San Diego-area banks and more orders are coming in. NBCSanDiego tested the security of the glass in this special report from Tony Shin.

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Have you ever walked into a bank and all the tellers are standing behind bulletproof glass?  If you have, then your bank is one of the few in San Diego County that has a so-called "bandit barrier."

NBCSanDiego put the bulletproof glass to the test with help of a Riverside County company that manufactures them, Pacific Bulletproof Company.

"There are two types of bank robberies. You have the non-violent one who just comes in and uses a note, doesn't threaten anybody,"said former LAPD bank robbery detective Steve Laird.  "Then you have the ones that come in with multiple suspects, threaten everybody, show guns and injure people."

Laird, who is also a former security director for Bank of America and U.S. Bank, says bulletproof glass is actually made of acryllic or polycarbonate which are very effective against high caliber bullets like a .44 Magnum.

From about 15 feet, Laird shot at several pieces of bulletproof glass.  The glass stopped each bullet without any problem.

Laird says in 1991, there were more than 2000 bank robberies in the city of Los Angeles.  Since then about 75 percent of banks now have bandit barriers. 

Last year, L.A. had about 200 robberies, according to Laird.

"You've reduced the chance of your branch being robbed by about 90 percent," Laird pointed out.

F.B.I. statistics confirm his claim.

In 2009, nearly six thousand banks were robbed nationwide.

"Only about 10 percent of those banks had bandit enclosures,"said San Diego F.B.I. agent Darrell Foxworth.  "Having that barrier there just fortifies it and makes it a harder target for bank robbers."

Officials with Pacific Bulletproof Company say only about 25 percent of banks in San Diego County are outfitted with bandit barriers.

So, why aren't more banks using them?

"They're worried about customer service, about being able to sell their products,"said vice president of sales Tony DiPonio.

In other words, the barriers aren't very inviting to customers.

Also, they can be expensive, with an average size bank costing about $45,000 to outfit.

"I think cost is an initial hiccup, but once they get it in and see how effective it is, it kind of goes away,"DiPonio said.

In the past few months the company has installed bandit barriers in five local banks and more orders are coming in.

So, don't be surprised if you walk into your bank and see your favorite teller, sitting behind a glass wall.

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