A bank robbery robs us all

Metro Journal

January 24, 2001|By Barbara Beem

CATONSVILLE -- My bank was robbed not too long ago, and so was I.

I wasn't there when it happened. I know what time of day it occurred, and I know that there was a little old lady trying to do her banking when it happened. I don't know if there were a couple of people holding up the bank or just one person, or if the getaway was on foot or by car.

I later heard about the helicopter that circled overhead. Come to think of it, maybe the culprit (or culprits) got away on foot, which would make me think there was just one person. I suppose the police were using overhead methods to try to locate him (or her, but this is one crime that is generally gender-specific). Maybe the helicopter was just a show of power in an otherwise helpless situation.

I don't know if there was a weapon involved. Maybe there was a gun, a small, shiny revolver. Maybe there was a big gun, one of those Rambo-style assault weapons that should never have been manufactured in the first place. Maybe there was a pocket comb made to look like a gun. I don't know, but I do know that no one got hurt. And it was all over really quickly.

Whoever did this, thank you for not hurting my friends.

The people who work at this bank branch are not just ordinary people trying to make a few bucks; they care. In the all-too-often impersonal world of banking, these people are truly stand-outs. No need for numbers here. They know your name and the name of everyone in your family and what you had for that special dinner last week.

With a bowl of Hershey's kisses and a basket of low-fat snacks, this bank's foyer sometimes resembles a community center. One patron saves just one transaction a week for Friday morning -- the day they serve Krispy Kreme doughnuts along with the news, gossip and a few jokes.

But after what happened a little while ago, I wonder whether we'll ever go back to the way we were. Catonsvillians cherish their cozy little village feeling. We can't build a wall around our community. We can't screen everyone who walks or drives down Frederick Road. I can't imagine what could possibly be done to totally eliminate crimes that disturb our peaceful lifestyle.

In response to the robbery, the bank closed its lobby doors for a few weeks. Of course, one day, it had to re-open those doors. It is unrealistic to imagine all of its patrons being served with a single drive-through window.

I suppose my bank could take notes from what their competitors have done. Some banks have hired well-placed guards, either as casually dressed greeters or armed and outfitted in quasi-official police garb. The former don't seem capable of doing much of anything, and I fear the latter are capable of too much.

Then there are those lobbies with bulletproof tellers' cages. I certainly wouldn't want to be a teller, exposed to the whims of any crazed individual who makes his way into the lobby. But I can't imagine that working in a glass bubble is very good for the spirits, either.

It's not the first time trouble has struck in the suburbs, and it certainly won't be the last. Perhaps I am overreacting. Sure, there have been other robberies before, and the main office probably wouldn't close our branch forever because of one hold-up.

I, too, have been the victim of burglary.

After that happened, I scrutinized my front door for signs of tampering every time I came home. For a while. But, with time, those apprehensions dull. Life goes on. You can't get through the day looking over your shoulder.

The same will happen at the bank, I suppose. We'll push ourselves to go in and visit with the bank employees. We'll stop giving fellow patrons the once-over, silently relieved when they are greeted by name. We'll finish our business and then linger a little bit, maybe even a little longer than normal, just to prove to ourselves that we're OK, that no one can turn our world upside down.

The bank can be robbed of money, but we can't allow ourselves to think that we can be stripped of our security.

Today's writer

Barbara Beem is a free-lance writer who lives in Catonsville.

Metro Journal provides a forum for examining issues of concern to the region's neighborhoods and welcomes contributions from readers.

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