Banks in area take account of customers

Customers at some banks across Illinois are being asked not to wear hats, sunglasses or hooded sweat shirts.

Judy Murdoch, vice president at University of Illinois Employees Credit Union, said that for the past year the credit union has asked members to take off hats, hoods and sunglasses so employees can more readily identify them.

The Illinois Bankers Association is encouraging banks statewide to use the program, which will inform customers through signs, posters and mailings that customers will be politely asked to take off hats, hoods and sunglasses while in the bank.

The goal is to focus attention on people who refuse to comply and prevent potential crimes.

Murdock said credit union officials wanted to be able to eliminate valid members as suspects of crimes.

"It's not just robbery," Murdoch said. "When you are wearing a hat and sunglasses, we cannot identify you as being the person you say you are."

A survey of customers before the program was implemented last year at the credit union indicated most would not object if it was for security, she said.

Murdoch called the program a "nicety."

"We would hope that people understand and do it voluntarily, but if they don't we hope that a least a couple of employees come up and ask them if they wouldn't mind."

First Federal banks in Champaign-Urbana are also participating in the "no hats, no hoods, no sunglasses" program and has posted notices on the doors and teller windows asking patrons to remove such items.

"The simple act of voluntarily removing hats, hoods and sunglasses will go a long way in keeping everyone safer while in the bank," explains a flyer available at the banks.

Busey Bank Executive Vice President Don Schlorff said their banks will implement the program within the next month. Signs will be posted informing customers.

"The idea is really to protect our customers and also protect our employees," Schlorff said. "What we want to do is provide a sense of security when you have business in our banks."

Customers will not be required to remove their hats and sunglasses, but those who do not will be watched a little closer, Schlorff said.

"Most of the time when people come in with intentions to do something illegal, they are going to wear some kind of disguise," he said. "Most of these people don't want to be recognized."

Champaign police Deputy Chief John Murphy said those who wore hats and sunglasses would stand out more if they were the only ones in a bank who did.

"They would garner extra scrutiny," Murphy said.

Such practices would improve the ability of police to identify someone who has robbed a bank, forged a check or passed a fake document, he said.

Another advantage for police might be that bank employees are quicker to react to suspicious behavior and call for officers, he said.

"That would give us additional lead time," Murphy said. "A lot of times, they don't call us until (the thieves) have left the bank."

Carla Wimsett, vice president at Edgar County Bank and Trust in Paris, said signs and posters with the targeted apparel crossed out by universal "do not" symbols were put up as the bank began the program June 12.

"We are using the soft approach," Wimsett said. "We are not asking people to take off things, but if we don't know you and you don't take them off, we are going to watch a little closer."

Mike Morris, vice president for administrative services at Citizens' National Bank, said they are also taking the "soft approach" at their banks in Paris, Oakland and Charleston.

Cards, posters and decals were put up at the banks June 15, he said.

"It's more geared to somebody who wears hats and sunglasses that we don't know," Morris said. "We are not going to force them, but we are encouraging them. For those who don't do it that we don't know, we will pay closer attention."

Most employees are also in favor, he said. To them, the program will be a bigger benefit in more common problems, such as forgery and identity theft, according to Morris.

"It helps when you go back and look at the tape," Morris said. "When they are wearing a hat and sunglasses, you can't tell who it is."

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