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A-K Valley branch--a robbery magnet--closes
PITTSBURGH (1/8/10)--A credit union branch that was robbed four times in the past two years and was burglarized on New Year's Day has closed permanently. The board of A-K Valley FCU, based in Lower Burrell, Pa., met Wednesday and decided to close permanently the Homewood branch, which served an underserved area for more than five years, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (PCUA) (Life is a Highway Jan. 7). The branch had not reopened since the burglary. A-K Valley President/CEO Janet Horn told PCUA the board made the decision with "very sad hearts" because the board and staff had put much effort into the branch to provide services to members who need help. The deciding factor was the board's concern for the safety of the credit union's employees and members, she said. Police are still investigating the burglary. A surveillance camera captured the burglar rifling through file cabinets. All members' records were safety locked in cabinets, the credit union said. The four robberies involved gunmen wielding assault rifles. The credit union had hired an armed guard to be present in the lobby during branch hours. "Homewood is a dangerous place. We have tried numerous times to work with community leaders and law enforcement to address the situation, but nothing gets done, and the crime problem continues to get worse and worse," Horn said. In one robbery, a member was completing a transaction when a robber entered the credit union and grabbed the cash from her hand. "We have been so fortunate that no one was hurt or killed," Horn said, noting that the constant uneasiness took a toll on employees and it was difficult to adequately staff the branch. "It's an unfortunate situation, because there are good people in the neighborhood who need financial services. But we can't continue the high cost of security and risk the safety and security of our staff and members," she said. A bank branch two blocks from the credit union also has had problems. It allows one customer inside at a time, and several customers have been attacked while using an ATM outside, said PCUA. The A-K Valley Homewood branch was a shared branch outlet. It is advising members to use shared branching services at other locations. The credit union is working with members on an individual basis to continue meeting financial needs.
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