Worried Over Local Robberies, Utah CU Moves To Cash Recyclers

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Credit Union One's new branch here is the first financial institution in the state to use Teller Cash Recyclers, or TCRs, in an effort to minimize robberies.

The concept is simple: tellers are arranged in a circular "pod," with the TCRs placed in the middle. Tellers have no cash drawers. When a member wishes to make a deposit or withdrawal, the teller inputs the account and transaction information on his or her computer, then visits a TCR to obtain or deposit cash. Checks are put into a drop box.

According to Scott Wilson, Credit Union One's vice president of operations, a would-be robber cannot force a teller to take money out of a TCR, because the machine will not dispense cash without an account number.

In addition to being an impediment to robbers, the TCRs, which are manufactured by De La Rue, verify deposit amounts by scanning the bills. Deposits are held in an escrow account if there are any disputes as to the amount. Wilson said the machines have numerous security features built in, and will reject mutilated, discolored or counterfeit bills by checking minute details such as the paper type and thickness.

'Robbery Central'

The security precautions are an unfortunate necessity because many other financial institutions in the neighborhood have been robbed. Wilson said when Credit Union One purchased the new branch location, it was not aware until after the sale was final the area was known as "robbery central."

"We haven't been hit, but everybody else has," said Wilson. "More than anything, we wanted to live up to our responsibility to provide a safe and secure environment for our staff and our members. At the same time, we wanted there to be no barrier between tellers and members. We were able to do both."

Credit Union One also made changes to its drive-up teller operations. Instead of a window that must be staffed by a CU employee, closed circuit television cameras and monitors will be used to provide contact between tellers and members. Cash, checks and receipts will be transported via tubes into the center of the building where the tellers work.

All these changes are not free, but Wilson said: "Money spent on security is money well spent. Safety should never be thought of in terms of cost."

Letting the Bad Guys Know

So how will potential robbers know about the existence of the TCRs? Credit Union One is conducting a "media blitz" to get the story into the public eye. The CU also will be using signage and other marketing efforts to raise awareness.

"We want to make people think they'd be better off going somewhere else, because they are not going to get anything here," explained Wilson. "I've been to conferences where people who have robbed financial institutions have spoken. They said they usually case the joint, looking for cameras, looking for convenience. They said they won't usually go to institutions with security measures in place.

"Unfortunately, it won't stop every potential robber, but hopefully, the word will get out," Wilson added.

The new branch opened Jan. 29, with a ceremonial grand opening Feb. 6. The credit union plans to convert its other three Salt Lake City branches to TCRs over the next three years.

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