Banking and Financial Security
Feb 1, 1999 12:00 PM
A central security station monitors activities at 90 bank branches. The European American Bank, based in Uniondale, N.Y., is large. A wholly owned subsidiary of the world's 14th largest bank, the Dutch firm ABN-AMRO NB, it serves the Long Island and New York City areas. It has 90 branches and assets in excess of $12 billion.
Such numbers don't go unnoticed by would-be bank robbers.
Assets are protected, however, with a combination of CCTV, ADT alarms, various locking mechanisms and a staff that monitors Mosler vaults on a continual basis.
The security program worked flawlessly during two recent robbery attempts.
At the Central Islip, Long Island, branch, a not-so-creative robber wearing a ski mask was foiled due to the speedy response of the bank's security department. Police - quickly notified - caught the robber near the branch.
It's all in a day's work for Ed Cunningham, bank vice president and director of security, and his staff.
Bank "assets" also proved too tempting for another recent robber, who broke a bank branch window to gain access. The bank's security console room received an alarm and instantly summoned local police, who discovered the perpetrator hiding in the bank's ceiling. "The person pleaded guilty, and received 31/2 to 7 years in the state pen," Cunningham notes.
Before joining the bank a little more than a year ago, Cunningham was a civil lawyer, a partner in a security company and an assistant council to the Mollen Commission, which investigates corruption in the New York City Police Department. Prior to that, Cunningham was an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he handled organized and white collar crime.
At the bank, Cunningham is responsible for investigations and physical security for bank branches and holdings throughout New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The Long Island corporate headquarters has a Diebold 5100 card access system, which is tied in with other systems used at bank holdings across the country. Each member of the bank's senior management needs only one access card for all locations. The Diebold system is also tied into an NTC Electronics system used at one of the parent company's facilities in Chicago. Access cards are issued at various locations using three separate computer systems.
The corporate facility uses 128 card readers to control access to executive and financial areas, and the loan, auto leasing and legal departments. The system is also used for a child care center and by tenants who share the building - Dreyfus, Farrell Fritz and Mellon Bank. Card readers unlock doors for entry; motion detectors release doors for exit. Access cards - produced on a Badge-It system from NTC Electronics, Chicago - incorporate the employee's picture.
Thirty-six Sony, Panasonic and JVC vari-focal cameras, enclosed in Pelco housings, are strategically located throughout the building, including freight elevators.
The heart of the operation is a console room that includes Gyyr, Panasonic and JVC time-lapse recorders, Sony Trinitron call-up monitors, Panasonic black-and-white monitors, Sony color monitors and American Dynamics Super Quad splitters.
Cunningham manages security investigations through the use of a Videotronix ICMS program that stores case details and activities on a central database, which allows for cross referencing of investigations and reveals patterns of multiple crimes committed by the same subject.
The security department includes four investigators. One of the investigators is assigned to analyzing proprietary computer databases and various public-source materials for tasks such as due diligence investigations and background checks.
Fifty contract guards are dispersed throughout the metropolitan area branches, with nine stationed at the corporate headquarters. Security officers are trained in state-mandated programs such as an eight-hour pre-assignment class and a 16-hour, on-the-job training course. "We also give additional on-site training in security system operation, alarm notification procedures, report filing and disaster recovery procedures," adds security supervisor Salvatore Pirrello. Staff members receive training throughout the year. Cunningham and two other security officers are certified fraud examiners, and two others expect to have certification by year's end.
The case of the bungling thief
Sometimes, thieves make it easy. For example, Ed Cunningham, European American Bank vice president and director of security, relates the following counterfeit check scheme: "After depositing a bad check, an individual drove to another branch and withdrew the money from an automatic teller machine with his ATM card. He then reported that the card had been stolen and that his signature on the bad check was forged. He didn't realize the ATM video surveillance camera had recorded his image. Our investigative team went over the ATM tapes and identified the individual. He was apprehended and prosecuted."
Video surveillance made this an open-and-shut case, and Cunningham hopes to benefit from additional CCTV cameras. "We're also looking into the possibility of using digital cameras, which would enable us to view an ATM transaction at a branch or inside a bank from our console room," he says. Cunningham also is looking at computer programs that could help tellers catch bad checks at the time of transaction, rather than after the fact.