Los Angeles – On January 12, 2016, a church volunteer carrying the weekly offering to the bank was the victim of a strong arm robbery at the Church of the Assumption in Los Angeles.
The 80 year old man stepped outside and made a bee-line to his car, when he was attacked from behind by an unknown suspect. The suspect grabbed the large canvas money bag, and attempted to remove it from the victim’s grip.
The 80 year old man didn’t give up easily. He held onto the bag, which caused him to take a hard fall to the concrete. The suspect ran with the money bag containing cash, change and checks in the amount of over $4,000 and got into a black sedan and fled the scene.
According to the police report, there were 2 suspects involved in the robbery. They loitered in the parking lot for 45 minutes before making their move.
As the victim walks out to his car, how would you judge his situational awareness? The first step in situational awareness is understanding something bad can happen to you at anytime. Being aware of this fact, causes you to pay attention more than the average person.
Simply looking outside and paying attention to the area you intend to walk into is the first step in preventing an attack. Had the gentleman taken a few minutes to study who was in the area, and to watch their behavior, he may have decided to call the police for a drive through or an escort to the bank. When you see something suspicious, go with your gut, it is usually right 99% of the time.
The cameras are probably not manned 100% of the time and exist to capture crimes in progress, so police can attempt to make an arrest later. They do nothing to prevent crimes and are easily defeated by the suspect covering up his face, so increasing your situational awareness is imperative.
All too often, we place our faith in technology, when utilizing our senses and intuition together can help us avoid trouble or becoming victims of crime.
The Right Person For The Job?
Many churches rely on volunteers to get things done. Who else but a senior citizen has time during the day to help the church count money and make a bank drop? Many churches rely on their seniors to help out with this big task. However, it may be more prudent for the church to spend a little money on hiring an armed guard service to pick up the weekly donations and transport them to the bank. In the churches I have belonged to, we count the money after the service and an armed team takes it to the bank for the deposit.
We are alert to anyone loitering in the parking lot, sitting in cars, and paying attention to the comings and goings of our members. The large money bag chosen for the transport is like a magnetic beacon to anyone in the area who needs some quick cash. Being more discreet and concealing the money on your person may be the first step in taking you or your team member out of the equation for a robbery.
Let’s Rewind A Bit
It is no secret churches handle a large amount of cash every weekend. This in an of itself should cause you to believe it is a matter of time before your church is targeted. This team of thieves did their homework. They knew who would bring it out, what he would bring it out in, and how he would behave. The moment he came out, he had their attention and they acted swiftly to remove him from the church’s money.
Counting the cash should be done in a secure area where the windows are covered up. The days and times should be altered if possible, but for most churches this isn’t practical.
The times for deposit should be staggered and on different days. Allowing the cash to sit in a locked safe and taking it to the bank on altering days every week is a simple step to disrupt the plans of a criminal.
The person taking the cash should be able to defend himself if he is targeted. In California (a may issue state), not everyone is allowed to be armed. The person who does the bank deposit should be alert, take his time, pay atention to the area his is walking into both at the church and at the bank. He should be alert to cars following him, and should call the police at the slightest feeling he is being targeted.
Lastly, churches should recognize this is a dangerous activity. Taking money to the bank should be handled by a professional security service if possible. Paying someone $100 per week out of a $4000 offering is a small price to pay to keep people and assets safe and secure.