The FBI is tracking a spike in bank robberies in the Baltimore region

Asking for public's help to catch the crooks
Posted at 6:52 PM, Feb 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-08 18:52:54-05

It was a terrifying ordeal last month. A robber walked into the Wells Fargo bank in Arbutus, pulled out a pistol, and ordered everyone to the ground.          

"Customers and employees are scared to death because they've got a man in the lobby of the bank with a handgun that he's pointing at everyone," said Special Agent Patrick S. Dugan with the Baltimore FBI Violent Crimes Task Force.

One by one, the man goes down the line of tellers, demanding cash. Also giving surveillance cameras the chance to capture clear images of his face.

That was back on Jan. 13, and authorities are still looking for the crook. Another suspect added to an ever growing list.  The Baltimore area ranks among the highest in the country for bank robberies, putting us on par with larger cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Financial institutions have always been a target in this region, but over the last few years the numbers have spiked.

Dugan is the FBI's bank robbery coordinator in Baltimore, he says in the first 38 days of this year 20 banks have already been hit.

"Based upon our recent history, that's a pretty big increase in robberies," he said.

The Baltimore FBI Violent Crimes Task Force is made up of FBI Agents, State Police, U.S. Marshals, and investigators from Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Anne Arundel County.  The partnership investigated 82 bank heists across charm city, Baltimore and Howard Counties last year.  That's up from just 25 bank robberies in 2015.           

An alarming up-swing, and there are clear trends. Dugan says a majority of these bandits show or threaten they have a gun, and most don't stop with just one hold-up.

"The difference between someone that does one bank robbery and someone that does 15 bank robberies is that the person that did one had a bad day and got caught right away," Dugan said.

Those repeat offenders play into the jump in crimes.           

Dugan says another factor is convicted bank robbers getting out of lock-up and falling into old habits.  Remember the so-called winter hat robber? He was locked up on federal bank robbery charges, and just a few years after doing that time was back in the game.  Harrison Lewis III was nabbed last week after a two-month stealing spree where he robbed at least eleven banks.

"As long as there's banks there's gonna be bank robberies," said Dugan.

Some of these thieves do the heists to feed a drug habit, but that's not always the case.

"Some like the thrill of committing a robbery, like the thrill and the power of having a gun in their hand and being able to take something from someone else,” he said. “And those people are really dangerous."

FBI agents tell ABC2 News the armed suspect from the Wells Fargo heist is between 25 and 30 years old, has a medium build and is between 5 feet, 5 inches and 5 feet, 7 inches.

If you know anything about the crime, call FBI Baltimore at 410-265-8080.

Download the ABC2 News app for the iPhone, Kindle and Android