Employee training topped the list of robbery prevention tips issued recently by the American Bankers Association's security and fraud prevention committee.

The number of bank robberies nationwide increased nearly 10% in 1996 to 7,562, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Bank holdups peaked in 1992 at 9,622.

"The most significant thing banks can look at is the training of their staff," said Boris F. Melnikoff, senior vice president of Wachovia Corp.

Training should focus on the safety of customers and employees, he said, noting that financial losses are relatively small from robberies. Some local police departments offer training. The Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia, for example, runs a complimentary two-hour "bank robbery" training program.

- Morgan Lee, Medill News Service

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