Decreasing the Risk of Robbery for Non-Bank Financial Service Providers

Over the past several years the United States has seen a dramatic growth in small-dollar/”payday” lending, as well as other non-bank financial services like check cashers, pawn shops, and money services businesses (like Western Union). And while we know bank robberies have been on the decline for years–especially as the use of physical security has increased to near-universal in the banking industry–it’s much harder to tell what’s happening with non-bank financial service provider security. Based on news reports, these businesses may be seeing a sharp increase in armed robberies.

While the FBI has long tracked bank robberies as a separate category of violent crime, non-bank financial services are scattered throughout several “Miscellaneous” categories–primarily “Speciality Stores” (a sub-category that also includes furriers, jewelry stores, and dress shops). Interestingly, while the overall “Miscellaneous” category has seen a trend of decreasing robberies in the past several years, assaults on “Speciality Stores” has been increasing. Nonetheless, Total Security Solutions has not seen a marked spike in interest from jewelers, fur shops, or women’s fashion boutiques–but does continue secure many money transfer offices, payday lenders, check cashers, and pawn shops.

bulletproof glass bullet resistant barriers

Ballistic Barriers for Check Cashers, Payday Lenders, and Money Transfer Businesses

The neighborhood money-service providers Total Security Solutions hears from are primarily concerned with deterring business-hour robberies–especially the traumatic armed takeover”-style robberies increasingly common in some regions:

Because money service businesses (like Western Union and MoneyGram) and non-bank financial service providers (“check cashers” and “payday lenders”) perform bank-like functions, it’s unsurprising that they need bank-like security (albeit at a different scale). Most money service businesses favor a two or three station “bank teller line”-style barrier, which generally includes bullet resistant acrylic windows, bullet proof fiberglass-reinforced counters, and deal trays at every station. These favor clear communication and quick transactions. Modern non-bank financial service providers (such as Advance America) are a little different. They tend to offer a wider variety of financial services than a traditional check casher or modern money transfer business, and also tend to have larger facilities. Subsequently, they often need a security system more closely approximating what you see in a modern bank.

Pawn shops, on the other hand, pose their own challenges.

The Special Challenge of Securing Pawn Shops

While money service businesses and non-bank financial services both evolved along the same lines as banks (the former handling money transfers while the latter accepts the risk of cashing checks and extending loans), pawn shops are a very different animal, with their own history. As a result, there is a huge amount of diversity among pawnshops in terms of clientele, layout, business practices, and threat scenario.



But in all cases, increasing physical security decreases risk. Tony Gallo, Senior Director of Sapphire Risk Advisory Group, has found that pawn shops who took measures to visibly increase their physical security saw a 75 percent drop in armed robberies.

The challenge is in sorting out what it takes to properly increase security in each unique locale. This may include any combination of bullet resistant glass and acrylic, UL-rated framing, bullet resistant fiberglass, and custom-built passers (some as large as lockers or cabinets, making it possible for the shop to safely handle very large items). Custom bulletproof display cases–which look just like traditional counter-style displays, but are crafted of bullet resistant materials–are especially popular in pawn shops, as they offer substantial security against burglary as well as a deterrence to armed bandits.

Modern and sleek vestibule with bulletproof door and transaction windows

Liberty Coin & Precious Metals

Total Security Solutions has worked with a wide variety of pawn shops, both on new construction and retrofits. Liberty Coin (shown above) is a perfect example of a system that offers clear sight lines (both for security and shoppers), easy communication, and the flexibility to accept a wide array of items. More importantly, this was a renovation of an existing location. Total Security Solutions designers were able to move the project through the design, fabrication, and installation processes very quickly, with absolutely minimal disruption to the business.


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