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FBI Says Most Bank Robberies Are Solved

In 1993 there were thirty-six bank robberies in Houston. In 1994, forty-nine bank robberies occurred. This year, more than fifty bank robberies have transpired from January to April. The FBI says the number of bank robberies in Houston this year is on pace to surpass last year's number. Bill Stamps looks into why that is and what's being done about it.


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image of wellsfargo bank robberIf you live in Houston and pay attention to the news… you’ve probably heard all the bank robbing nicknames: the toothless bandit, the reckless robber, the smooth talking bandit. But the FBI says the nicknames are part of their apprehension strategy. They say no one cares that 5 foot 3 man with bad acne robbed a bank. But if you call him the Clearasil bandit, then there’s a good chance it will make the evening news….and if it’s on the news, someone will recognize him.

“The FBI office here has a very aggressive bank robbery task force and every time we get photographs that we think are good enough — that they would lead to an identification — we try and get them out to the media.”

Bank robberies are on the news so often in Houston it might seem like we’re among the leading cities in the nation. Not so says special agent Patricia Villafranca. She says cities like LA have twice as many.

“They have multiple bank robberies everyday.  Here in Houston we’re enjoying a low rate of these, so when they do happen, it actually makes the news.”
Since 2002, Houston has averaged around 120 bank robberies a year. We’ve already had 52 this year. On April 11th of this year four banks were hit in one day. Some robbers show a weapon, but in most cases the would-be thief hands a threatening note to the teller.

“The note will usually contain some sort of implied threat: don’t make me hurt you; hurry up or else; give me the money or else…”

While you rarely see robbers with wigs and Halloween style disguises like in the movies… they will wear sunglasses and hats.

“When you look that ridiculous coming into the bank, you’ve already got everyone’s guard up. You’re setting yourself up to get caught real quick when you walk around a bank dressed up like that.”

Now some Texas banks are experimenting with not allowing customers to wear hoods, hats, and sunglasses.

The FBI won’t talk about security measures like bait money, silent alarms or exploding die packs. But they say about 70-percent of all cases are eventually solved. One bank robbery consultant says so-called note jobs rarely get more thank a couple thousand dollars. But In many cases it’s the robber’s friend who ends up with extra cash…that’s after they’ve turned them in for the reward money.

Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

image of smoothtaker wachovia bank robber

A man who robbed the Wachovia Bank at 7302 Bellaire on April 23, 2009. At approximately 12:15, a stylishly dressed black male entered the bank and approached a teller. He handed the teller a long, rambling note that demanded money and threatened the teller, indicating that he was carrying a gun. As the robber waited for the teller to comply with his demands, he began to flirt with her, and continued flirting until the cash was placed into a plastic bag he carried with him. Cash in hand, he smoothly thanked the teller and smiled as he left the bank.

The robber is described by witnesses as a black male, 25-27 y ears old, 5’07” to 5’09” tall, medium to dark complexion, clean shaven, with a tattoo of unknown design on his inside right forearm. He was wearing a black Kanga hat, black and white polo shirt, sunglasses, and jeans.

He was seen leaving the area on foot in the direction of the Southwest Freeway.

Crime Stoppers is offering up to $5,000.00 for information leading to the charging and arrest of this bank robber or any felony suspect. If you have information about this case, please call the Crime Stoppers Tip Line at 713-222-TIPS.

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