Indiana State Exchange Bank circa 1947

Indiana State Exchange Bank circa 1947

At banking and financial institutions, protecting employees and patrons is a top priority. One line of defense are the bandit barriers at the teller line to protect bank staff. As years have gone by, banks have transitioned from brass bars, as seen at left, to the clear acrylic “bulletproof glass” we see today.  (For clarification, the materials most commonly used are bullet-resistant and generally not made of glass.)

Burgeoning in the 1990’s, banks have installed bandit barriers throughout their institutions to curb robberies.  These barriers allow for a full uninhibited view of the customer and provide a much better deterrent to potential physical threats.  Even though advances have been made, many banks fail to fully protect their teller lines and believe that having “bulletproof glass” from the waist up is sufficient to keep tellers safe.

Listed below are four areas most banks fail to secure when installing bandit barriers.

1. Behind you!

Many banks invest thousands of dollars in bandit barriers to protect the front of the teller line, but what about behind the tellers? Recent financial centers have been designed with large windows to provide natural light and an open environment.  When these large windows are also behind the tellers, it would take no more than a rock through those windows to circumvent the security measures taken to protect the front.  Banks with large windows that lead directly into the teller line should, at the very least, reinforce the windows with a film or glaze to mitigate a rear entry breach.  If cost allows, windows can be fully replaced with bullet-resistant windows.

2. Above you!

Another area many banks do not address is above the barrier.  Bandit barriers are tall and seem difficult to get over, but an average person can stand on top of the counter and easily reach over with a weapon to make demands, leaving tellers with no protection.  If the suspect is so inclined, it wouldn’t take much effort to jump the barrier and now be within the teller space.  Banks can dissuade this behavior by having a “jump shield” installed.  A jump shield is clear, non-bullet resistant material mounted at the top of a bandit barrier that complicates a weapon reach-over and suspect infiltration.

3. Below you!

With bandit barriers, a common concern is if the bottom millwork portion is protected.  Some facilities have taken the lower area into consideration, but many have not.  The counter space from the waist down is usually made of a wood based material and is not meant to stop bullets.  This exposes tellers to the possibility of bullet penetration and could allow for a robber to make an entry point. Banks can reinforce the counter with bullet resistant matting that is equal in strength to the acrylic material, allowing head to toe protection for teller line staff.

4. Next to you!

Doors that lead directly into a teller area are usually bullet resistant, but other areas to consider reinforcing with bullet resistant material are surrounding walls and doors that lead to teller line vestibule spaces.  These areas need coverage so tellers are fully protected from gunfire.  When doors directly lead into a teller line, ensure they swing out from the teller line instead of inward towards the teller line.  Doors are easier to push than pull and having the door frame as support makes breaching an outward swinging door from the lobby side more difficult.

Most people see bandit barriers as only a robbery deterrent, but other benefits include:

  • Protecting teller line staff from potential customer aggressions.
  • Preventing suspects from re-gaining fraudulent checks and identifications.
  • Reducing operational costs through less security personnel.
  • Minimizing loss in the event of a robbery.

Bandit barriers also have applications in other environments besides banking, which include:

  • Healthcare (pharmacies, medical centers, laboratories)
  • Higher Education (cashier/registrar’s office)
  • Justice Facilities (police stations, courts, correctional facilities)
  • Government Offices (passport office, social security office, embassies)
  • Retail (jewelry and precious metal locations, convenience stores and gas stations, payday loan and check cashing establishments)

Assessing the entire space allows for a safe and secure location for employees and patrons. With costs around $8,000-$10,000 per window station, consider all access points and vulnerabilities to ensure barriers are efficient and effective to create a safe environment.

If you have any questions regarding this article or have any other security consulting needs such as threat/security assessments, security operations, policy/procedure, training, or security system design (CCTV, access control, intrusion detection), please feel free to reach out and contact Vantage Security Consulting (a division of Vantage Technology Consulting Group) at 310-536-7676 or via e-mail at chad.shade@vantagetcg.com.