By Stevie Pipis
Holt Journal Staff Reporter
Bank robberies are pretty rare in Mid-Michigan in the first place. Last month, that rare event happened twice. And on the same day.
The two banks were the FirstMerit Bank in Delhi Township and Comerica Bank in Lansing, both on Cedar Road and both robbed on the morning of Feb. 20. The suspect was caught that day at an address in Lansing.
“No, it’s not a common occurrence,” said Ingham County Sheriff Lt. Dennis Hull. “Our last bank robbery was about two years ago. To this day no one has been charged in that one.”
Rural areas are not commonly the target of bank robbers.
“That’s normal for an area of that size,” said Gary Kleck, a criminology professor at Florida State University. “Bank robberies are not often, mostly because there’s not very many banks.”
Convenience store robberies are more common, according to Hull.
“They’re not usually in our patrol though,” he said.
Environment plays a part in how often robberies can occur.
“Lansing is more environment rich, there’s more places to rob,” he said.
Delhi Township is considered a bedroom community. The population is smaller at night than it is during business hours.
“We have about 25,000 residents who sleep here, give or take, but we have about 60,000 by day during business hours,” Hull said.
The area has a low crime rate and is very safe, Hull said.
“Last year we took 5,000 calls for service and 1,058 of them resulted in arrest. We have about 700 car crashes a year,” he said.
“Smaller towns usually have low crime rates. And crimes that happen are usually minor crimes,” Kleck said.
“You might see some pot-smoking, or minor drug use. In rural and really small towns meth is a problem, that’s because you can manufacture it locally,” he said.
Bank employees are trained to keep a look out for people who seem suspicious.
“The employees are very vigilant of people, especially those they do not recognize,” Hull said.
With banks moving a lot of functions on the internet, there is less of a need for customers to go into the bank in person, Hull said.
“Bank employees know their customers, and if somebody they don’t know comes in wearing a heavy coat and a hat low so it covers their face, that’ll be suspicious,” he said.
Most people are there for legitimate reasons and will remove the hat without problem.
“Anyone that causes a double-take will equal suspicion, but you can’t always judge a book by it’s cover,” Hull said.
Bank robberies can be highly-volatile situations.
“They can go from 0 to 100 in a second. Thankfully we had a ‘No Passing’ last week,” Hull said. “Any resistances could have led to an injury.”
There is not just the risk of physical injury, but of mental injury as well.
“I think the mental injury could be worse. A black eye will heal, but mentally, when do you heal?” he said.
During his 19 years in law enforcement, Hull has seen people not come back to work following a robbery.
“They could never return to the environment,” he said.
The sheriff’s office does not offer any mental help to victims, and Hull said that help usually comes from the workplace.
“We can help them get a Personal Protection Order against the perp, and explain to the victim their rights, but we can only do that if the perp is formally charged,” Hull said.