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System Of Rewards Reduces Heists, Institutions Say

December 6, 1986

BOSTON (AP) _ In something of a return to the Old West, 33 Boston-area financial institutions have joined forces to offer rewards leading to the capture of bank robbers.

The cooperative, called the Metropolitan Holdup Alert Liaison Team, or HALT, has paid out four $1,000 rewards since it began running newspaper advertisements in February, said founder George Coleman, head of security at the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank.

The key to the monthly ads are photographs of suspects snapped by surveillance cameras. Most of the banks also post the ads in their lobbies to discourage criminals and reassure customers about security.

″We haven’t had any robberies since we joined,″ said South Weymouth Savings Bank security officer William Babbit. ″I think some of them think twice if they see the ads posted in the bank.″

The reward incentive has worked quickly, according to bank security officers. A week after Capitol Bank joined the program, for example, it was robbed and a suspect was captured the next day thanks an informant’s tip.

In another instance, a man wanted for several holdups was captured in New York City after someone noticed his picture in an ad and called the FBI. He has since been charged with 17 bank robberies, including two at member banks.

The cash awards are presented to people who give information that leads to an indictment. The determination is made by the Bank Robbery Task Force, whose telephone number is on the ads. Even if a jury fails to convict the alleged robber, the informant still keeps the money.

″We don’t get too many crank calls. Most of the people have information we can use,″ Coleman said. All informants remain anonymous.

Coleman said he is pleased with the operation’s successes because not only have robbers been nabbed, but estimates that the percentage of armed holdups has decreased by 25 percent in member banks.

Coleman said the banks are charged a yearly fee based upon the number of offices and branches they have. The Boston Five, for example, pays $3,000 per year. The smallest banks, with only one office, pay $300.

The program, co-founded by Peter Howerton of the Provident Institution for Savings was modeled after a similar program in Detroit.