DON'T MESS With This Texas Bank
DON'T MESS With This Texas Bank

Dec 1, 2004 12:00 PM

At 11:42 a.m. on Dec. 5, 2003, a man dressed in dark pants, a white shirt, black gloves and a black mask walked into Citizens National Bank (CNB) in Mount Enterprise, Texas, pulled out a gun and held up a teller. Moments later, as he ran out of the bank with cash in hand, a camera caught him with his tongue exposed through the mask.

"My employees did everything right," says Tommy Jimerson, assistant cashier over properties, purchasing and security for all of the CNB branches. "They gave him the money, waited until he left and locked the doors."

Jimerson was at the Henderson branch, 15 miles away, when the robbery occurred. He called the Rusk County Sheriff's Department in Henderson and the FBI in Tyler, Texas. "The sheriff's deputies from Henderson were on site with two cars before I was, and two more came after, along with the FBI, who had to drive about 50 to 60 miles," Jimerson says. "The FBI was really impressed with the images [captured by a digital video multiplex recorder]."

While the Sheriff's department has no jurisdiction in Mount Enterprise, the local police asked them to do the investigation. "The head dispatcher's wife was an employee at the bank," says Lt. Ricky Alexander of the Rusk County Sheriff's Department. "I took three other investigators with me. The bank copied the incident from the digital video recorder to disk and handed it to us. The images were clean and it caught [the robber] in the act. Based on the clarity of the images, I told my boss I would have the guy in custody by Monday morning."

Alexander's team identified a possible suspect, and brought him in on charges of driving without a license. "The digital video showed the structure of his body," Alexander says. "He said it wasn't him, but when he claimed to have come in from a certain direction, the cameras proved otherwise. I could sit on my own computer and move the angles on the pictures, including the camera to the parking lot."

After working on the case all weekend, Alexander caught the suspect. "On Sunday at 9:30 p.m., I nailed him," he says. "A lot of it was because of the recording system. The fact that the bank had the ability to search by the time of the event was wonderful."

Once the robber confessed, the deputies recovered his gun and all but $200 of the stolen money. The arrest also led the way to clearing up some other unsolved cases in which he had been involved.

The bank has a long history. Citizens National Bank opened in March of 1930, just after the Great Depression was beginning to affect the nation.

Over the years, the bank has grown to 17 locations spanning across six counties from an area Southeast of Dallas to near the Louisiana State line, two drive-in facilities and an insurance company, Citizens Financial Group. The Mount Enterprise branch is the most southern of the 17 Eastern Texas banks that are run by CNB.

As CNB acquired banks over time, they inherited diverse and outdated security systems. Jimerson had hired a trusted dealer, 3D Security Inc., Henderson, Texas, to design and install compatible systems in each branch.

"There were all types of security installed," says Chris Dunn, president of 3D Security Inc. "Most were 6- to 8-zone panels with lots of zones tied together, such as all the holdup buttons. All had monochrome standard resolution cameras."

CNB has always had security in its branches, but in the Mt. Enterprise branch, all of the cameras had been repositioned and a new digital video multiplex recorder had been installed just two weeks before the robbery. Jimerson had not even had the time to get the system up on his network.

Dunn says that the most ineffective aspect of the original installations was the placement of the cameras and the lack of equipment maintenance. "I like to hang my cameras low," he says. "Most cameras were positioned too high, allowing someone wearing a cap the ability to hide his or her face."

The banks originally had VCRs in all locations, and the videotape players had appeared to have 20,000 to 80,000 hours on them, and no apparent maintenance, Dunn says.

"Every time I looked for something on the tape, it wasn't there," Jimerson says. "Digital technology takes out the human error. You have to get [a recorder] that works, and stay with it."

Dunn chose high-resolution Sony SH-SSCDC393 color cameras and Panasonic PA-WVCW474AS SuperDynamic II color cameras with Rainbow Auto-Iris Vari-Focal lenses to provide crisp color pictures for each bank branch. The Panasonic cameras manage the difficult outdoor lighting, and Panasonic outdoor armored domes monitor the ATMs. Dunn says the vari-focal lenses are used to accentuate the facial features of customers using the front teller line and exiting the bank, so that they can check personal identification as well as activity.

Dedicated Micros' Digital Sprite 2 DVMRs with 9- or 16-camera capability and 320GB hard drives allow each bank to record video and still retain more than 30 days of archived recorded events, Dunn says. "These units are extremely easy to program, and have an activity detection feature to start the recording process for individual cameras. The ability to review an incident from any branch using the bank's WAN has proven valuable on several occasions. Multiple viewers can watch video from multiple locations."

Because all vaults are on timers, each branch had to be completed in one day.

"Planning and execution must be precise," Dunn says. "Installing a system in an existing bank building is challenging because of having to pull all new cable and wire inside and out of a building, and to do it while the bank is open makes it even more challenging."

Exact locations of cameras and sensors are planned and drawn out. Camera cables must avoid fluorescent lights and high-power cables that cause electrical interference with cameras.

"Fluorescent lighting works on 60 cycles per second, as do cameras," Dunn says. "It is actually possible to have a camera blacked out because it has become in sync with the light. If you run cables in parallel with high-voltage wiring, you can end up with distortion running across the picture."

The legacy security systems had a limited number of zones, so wires were tied together to keep the number of zones within the CPU size. Dunn zoned each sensor separately, which even in a small branch, adds up quickly when zoning each door, holdup button, motion detector and vault. "We try to pull what cables we know will be a problem such as the ones that go across the lobby before we do anything else, so we aren't in the way," Dunn says. "When we go behind the teller line, we set our cameras first, then drop the cables down the walls afterwards."

Dunn also uses wireless security equipment wherever possible, which is supervised so that management always knows the condition of each sensor. "We put wireless holdup switches on each station," he says. "If someone pushes the button by accident, management will know which teller pushed the button. If you have a robbery, you'll know where the robbery is taking place."

After the first few systems were installed, Jimerson realized the added benefits that they provided.

"I monitor all the banks from one location on Fridays," he says. "At peak times, I can see if tellers are talking on the phone or taking care of customers. I also count customers to see if there is enough help to take care of traffic."

All locations are single-story, except the two-story main bank. That was the final bank that Dunn installed. Sixteen cameras cover both floors and are recorded on a Dedicated Micros' BX2 1TB unit.

The system has proven capabilities beyond security. A travel trailer from out of state came in the parking lot. The driver could not negotiate the turn so he went through the ATM drive. He caused $10,000 of damage to the ATM and broke the entire back off of the travel trailer, including the license plate and ladder. The incident was captured by the DVMR.

"You could see his bed and everything," Jimerson says.

Since the bank branches are so spread out, Jimerson also discovered that he could monitor bank renovations using Dedicated Micros' Network Viewer over his WAN.

"I sat in my office and watched the electricians move the ladder and put the floor down in our Malakoff branch bank," he says. "It was a six-month operation. Not having to drive up there was a help. When they installed the new Formica on the teller line, the tellers had to move out in front of the counter, so I watched them during the job."

Jimerson has monitored renovations at six locations in the past two years. He informs the contractor when work is not up to par or when people do not show up, all without leaving his office.

The bank management is in the process of building a new 3,600 square foot location in Longview, says Jimerson, and they will install the same CCTV and recording system.

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