CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The night of the armed robbery sounds cliché, almost like a scary movie.
It was a dark and stormy night around 8:45 p.m. when she drove in the rain to the Arboretum shopping center.
She is a 59-year-old counselor who has lived in Charlotte for 22 years. Much of that time she’s lived near the Arboretum.
“That was the bank I went to all the time,” she said.
But she needed cash.
“So I drove up to the ATM, popped my card in, plugged my code in and I heard this sound," she recalled. "And I thought what is that? And it was this voice and I caught movement in my rear view mirror.”
And then she saw a gun.
“I remember thinking what is that? My mind just couldn’t make sense of it and then I heard myself say that’s a gun and then I went, holy smokes, that’s a gun!”
He’d come from behind the bushes.
“So he squeezed up in between my car and the ATM and he was saying, 'Give it to me. Give it to me. Give it all to me,'” she said.
The suspect didn't get a lot of money from the victim and she wasn't hurt, but she was shaken.
There are several things Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer John Frisk says she did right. She used a drive-thru ATM.
“I think utilizing your car, driving up, would be a little bit safer because you're not having to get put of your car at least," Frisk said. "Whenever you pull up in you car you can easily just pull off.”
TIPS TO KEEP YOU SAFE AT AN ATM:
- Frisk said being in a vehicle is safer than a walk-up ATM or vestibule. And he said to always make sure the doors in your vehicle are locked.
- “If there’s shrubbery, any type of trees, bushes around the ATM, (I) would suggest not going to an ATM if you see something like that,” Frisk said.
- It's also important to pay attention to lighting. While it is okay to go to an ATM at night, make sure the area is well lit.
- Try not to go alone.
- Get cash when you check out at the grocery store.
An average of 40% of ATM users use an ATM 8-10 times a month - National Cash Systems
The victim, who did not want to be identified, said the robbery has made her even more aware.
"I sense when a place feels bad and I don’t hesitate to back off now,” she said.
In the event of a robbery, CMPD offers the following tips:
• Keep calm; let the robber know you intend to cooperate.
• Obey all the robber's orders. Keep all communication with the robber short and simple, don't argue.
• Do not fight the robber or use a weapon. Violence will only increase everyone's personal risk.
• Give the robber all the cash and merchandise they demand.
• Do not chase or follow the robber.
• Be identification-conscious. Observe the robber, their weapon and escape vehicle so you can accurately describe them to police later.
• Immediately report the robbery to the police. DO NOT hang up the phone until they arrive
NBC Charlotte tried to get the numbers from CMPD on ATM robberies. They told us it’s not something they actually track.
CMPD has a Crime Prevention Unit designed to help keep you safe. You can contact them Monday - Friday at 704-336-2310 or your can email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also download and view their Crime Prevention Safety Guide
To search for a drive-up ATM near you, click here for Wells Fargo, click here for Bank of America and click here for BB&T. Most other financial institutions have a list of drive-up ATMs on their web sites.