FD launches Bank Watch to stop crime

Local banks and financial institutions are teaming up with the Fort Dodge Police Department to let would-be criminals know they should think twice before committing a crime.

Bank Watch, a new initiative from the FDPD, provides a way for local financial institutions to share information and openly communicate with each other.

The idea for Bank Watch came after the robbery of CS Bank, 130 N. 29th St., on Feb. 7.

“The chief said he’d like to have communication between all the banks in town,” Karen Wood, assistant vice president and trust officer at CS Bank, said. “I was able to get representatives from each bank to come together, and that basically triggered the start of it.”

Tim Carmody, Fort Dodge police chief, said having the banks communicate with each other and with law enforcement could help prevent crimes that specifically target financial institutions.

Bank Watch has many similarities to Neighborhood Watch, a program where peoples’ joint efforts help make their communities safe. This includes meeting regularly and speaking with other banks when something suspicious happens.

Wood said Bank Watch met as a group for the first time last week, and she felt it was successful.

“We had a very educational presentation and really opened up the lines of communication,” she said. “It was a very good start.”

The meeting, which was also held with the FDPD, also highlighted how staffers should respond in different emergencies.

“We talked a lot about robbery procedures,” Wood said. “We were also educated on what to look for in regards to suspicious activity and with forgeries and counterfeit bills.”

Jamie Kilian, president of First American Bank, said Bank Watch provides a chance for all the banks in town to come up with new ideas regarding how they can protect themselves and clients from incidents.

“We had a great discussion on different security tips,” she said. “All of the financial institutions were able to share all their thoughts and ideas.”

Fort Dodge Police officer Joelyn Johnson, who serves as the department’s community resource officer, said one of the main goals of Bank Watch is to deter crime.

“It’s our way of creating a proactive approach at preventing crime,” Johnson said.

She added Bank Watch will serve as a testing ground for different crime prevention groups the department hopes to create.

“The Police Department has high hopes for a Business Watch program,” Johnson said. “But after the recent incident here, we decided to start with Bank Watch. This will be our first opportunity to test the waters to see how this works.”

Though it’s a new program, Wood said Bank Watch has already seen success. She said the banks have been sharing information about suspicious activity with each other and the police department.

Kilian said she’s hopeful the program will make banks safer.

“Any time you can open the lines of communication, it makes all the financial institutions more comfortable,” she said. “Our clients should feel good that now we’re doing even more to make sure everything is safe.”