Local Banks Change Policies

By Elise Roberts - bio | email

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - In response to a recent rash of robberies along the Gulf Coast, some financial institutions are coming together to create a safer banking environment.

Earlier this year, 16 South Mississippi banks were robbed in broad daylight. Forty-eight-year-old Gary Clayton Walker, also known as "The Billy Goat Bandit," was arrested in connection with at least five of those robberies. Now a new policy hopes to cut back on bank crimes.

This week six financial institutions will implement a new policy that prohibits hats, hoods and sunglasses. The move comes after the recent string of robberies along the Gulf Coast. And although he initially had reservations, Peoples Bank President Chevis Swetman now believes the policy is a good move.

"We've had a few customers that have been in the bank lobby when the bank's robbed, and it's not a pleasant experience for them. So, anything that we can do to try and keep the bad guys away, we're going to try and do it," Swetman said.

It's not uncommon for banks to ask customers to remove certain items of clothing. In fact, Swetman says it may not be long before many other South Mississippi banks follow suit.

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this would be a good program," said Swetman.

Officials with the Biloxi Police Department say it will help solve and prevent crime.

"I think everybody knows we're all trying to do the same thing and that's solve these crimes, and just having this other tool at our disposal will be a win-win situation," Assistant Police Chief Rodney McGilvery said.

Hancock Bank Vice President Paul Maxwell agrees.

"Of course, when you live on the Gulf Coast area, everyone likes to wear hats, everybody likes to wear sunglasses. But most of the customers understand why the policy exists," Maxwell said.

Hancock Bank was one of the 16 banks robbed earlier this year. Now, like many other local banks, company executives have decided to make Hancock Bank a part of the no hat, no hoods and no sunglasses policy.

"Our employees will ask them kindly to remove the glasses or hat or whatever the occasion, and hopefully they will comply at that point. If not, no one is going to be refused service. It will bring more attention to that person," said Al Topper, head of Hancock Bank security.

The new policy will go into effect this Friday at Hancock Bank, Peoples Bank, Bancorp South and Community Bank. Trustmark and Regions Bank already utilize the policy.