Bank robberies are often isolated occurrences.

But when there are five bank robberies in one community in one year, including three in a six-week span last spring, it begins to emerge as a bit of trend, and it had a chilling effect.

When 35-year-old Chad Ray Hovet of Pueblo West allegedly robbed the Bank of the San Juans, TBK Bank and ENT Federal Credit Union in Pueblo West last spring, bank operators in Pueblo West wondered if they were next.

It forced banks to look at their operations and make some changes, Mitch Brown, the vice president of Legacy Bank in Pueblo West, explained.

"As a bank, it didn't make us totally rethink what we do," Brown said, "but it helps to re-invent and see how we can go about (protecting the bank and its customers) from the time that somebody opens the bank to the time that somebody locks the doors and leaves for the day."

Workers at Legacy Bank, which is located across the street from the Bank of the San Juans, which was robbed on April 4, saw the robbery firsthand.

"It's pretty fresh as far as what happened," Brown said, "when all of a sudden you see all these cops show up at a bank, and you immediately think worst-case scenario that there's some sort of robbery. When most robberies happen, they do it with a note, but in this particular case, he had a gun, showed it and pointed it at people, and that's a whole other level of psychological issues to deal with."

In an effort to avoid that, Legacy Bank as well as the Bank of the San Juans hired a security guard to protect its workers and customers.

"It's one of those things where, the type of community we're in, we want to show that we care about the safety and security of our customers," Brown said. "As soon as he hit the TBK Bank (one week after the Bank of the San Juans robbery), the community started thinking 'how safe is this?'"

Banks, Brown explained, continue to be vigilant as the specter of robberies is simply a fact of life in the banking industry. He said that employees are trained to constantly pay attention to their surroundings to notice if somebody is "casing the bank" for a future robbery. That includes, he said, keeping note of individuals that workers don't recognize, often writing down descriptions and even writing down license plate numbers.

"All banks are conditioned to do at least monthly or quarterly training in terms of robberies," Brown said. "In banks, there are so many people in and out, people taking phone calls, and you're not always aware of your surroundings. Whenever somebody comes in, we want one or two people to recognize them and say hello and do their best to be aware."

asandstrom@chieftain.com