Florida Kidnapping And Robbery Not Seen As Indicator Of A Trend

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla.-An employee of Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union here was abducted outside his home early on President's Day, Feb. 21, and taken to the CU to access the vault while his family was held hostage in the home-echoing a string of similar crimes some years ago.

The victim, whose name has not been released, was ordered to open the vault but was unable to, and in the end withdrew money from his personal account via an ATM. Upon returning to the victim's home, both suspects fled, taking more cash and the victim's car, abandoning the vehicle not far from the residence. No one was injured during the incident, and the amount of money lost has not been released.

The crime echoes a string of similar activity that occurred in the Midwest during the last decade, not long after a popular movie, "Bandits," depicted a similar story line.

But that was back in 2001, and Mike Bridges, vice president of communications for the League of South Eastern Credit Unions said that no one in his office knew of any history of that type of activity in this region. No arrests were made in the Midwest robberies and abductions.

Sgt. James McQuaig of the Leon County Sheriff's Office said that authorities were pursuing leads and consulting with other law enforcement agencies, including the Tallahassee Police Department and the FBI to compare notes and see if this showed any kind of trend-standard practice in this type of incident, he said.

"There was a considerable amount of planning that went into this, and that is of concern to us," said McQuaig, adding that "the duration of this incident is a little out of the ordinary-this didn't just happen in a few seconds. This involved actually traveling-securing a place, securing people, maintaining vigilance over them and transporting someone to a different location. Anytime you're involved in those things, you're getting into an extended period of time committing the crime." The credit union is about a 20-minute drive from the victim's home, he said.

McQuaig added that "regardless of if this is a one-time deal or the 30th in a string, we have to follow our evidence to the appropriate person or persons," adding that the department's procedure on this would not differ from their standard practices.

Michael Petrone, risk management consultant for CUNA Mutual, said that his organization generally recommends trauma counseling for CU employees after this type of incident, but that CUNA's focus is primarily on the preventative side.

Most Effective Strategy: Dual Control System

In addition to reducing the amount of cash on hand, said Petrone, one of the most effective things a credit union can do is institute a dual control policy, in which one individual has access to keys to the facility and alarm code and one has access to the vault system. He added that many alarm systems have an "ambush code," allowing the user to disable the alarm system and at the same time silently notify the alarm company of an emergency.

But Petrone said that because kidnapping and robbery scenarios are uncomfortable conversation pieces, the topic is often not broached until too late. "It seems to be that in a lot of these states, until something like that really happens, they may not have a lot of these controls in place," he said. "There's a mentality of 'What are the chances of this happening to us?'"

"As a league, we've reached out to Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union to see what they need," said Bridges. "First and foremost we've been talking to their CEO [Lisa Brown] and asking her what we can do and what we can provide. The biggest thing we can provide right now is to speak on their behalf."

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