Commerce Bank calls itself “America’s Most Convenient Bank” — but its Park Slope branch has given the motto new meaning thanks to four recent robbery attempts, including two this week.
On Friday, Jan. 12, and on Sunday, Jan. 14, the Fifth Avenue branch was targeted again, the latest robberies since the one-year-old branch was hit on Halloween and again on Dec. 26, cops said.
Many believe the bank keeps getting hit because it does not have thick Plexiglas separating customers from tellers. The bank refuses to talk about any of the crimes.
In the first of the two most-recent attempts, the would-be bandit showed up at the bank before it opened (what happened to “convenient”?) and waited. Once inside, he passed a note to the teller, who passed back $2,340.
The robber, whom police described as a 6-foot-3, 220-pound black man with dreadlocks, a mustache and a cane, fled the bank, limping down First Street.
Two days later, a criminal with a similar look (and cane) arrived at the bank before it opened. This thief returned an hour later in a livery cab, entered the bank and handed the teller a note reading, “Give me $10,000 in two stacks of 20s.”
The teller complied, but put a dye-pack in the bag, which exploded as the perp left the bank.
With the moneybag still smoking, he jumped back into the waiting cab, whose driver was so freaked out that he ran away. At this point, the bank robber slid into the driver’s seat and sped uptown on Fifth Avenue.
The back-to-back bank burglaries have Fifth Avenue residents feeling, shall we say, insecure.
“The money exploded in the thief’s hands in front of bank,” said Paul Heller, who lives nearby. “People on First Street, particularly with children, are scared to death.”
Heller, like others, said the bank’s “customer friendly” approach — with no bulletproof Plexiglas, for example — is encouraging robbers. He may have a point; NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly has long blamed banks for the city’s rash in robberies, urging them to install better barriers between tellers and customers.
In fact, in 2003, Kelly stormed a bank’s grand opening to protest that branch’s lack of protective barriers. Which bank? Why, it was a Commerce Bank branch, wouldn’t you know.