Colo. banks urged to report suspicious people

With a nearly 30 percent jump in bank robberies last year when compared with 2008, banks in Colorado are being encouraged to report suspicious people entering their banks as a way to discourage would-be bank robbers.

"It could be something as simple as asking people to take off their sunglasses and hats," said Mitch Morrissey, Denver's District Attorney said Monday. "Someone greeting people at the door. And guards. Guards help."

Last year, the FBI's Denver field office investigated 202 bank robberies in Colorado, up from 150 in 2008. Of those cases, 155 happened in Denver, compared with 113 in 2008.

Morrissey, FBI Special Agent In Charge James H. Davis, Denver Police Chief Gerry Whitman and other uniformed law enforcement officials with agencies throughout the Denver metro area met with bank officials to discuss how to respond to the increase in bank robberies.

"What we have right now is somewhat of an epidemic of bank robberies and we are doing what we can to address that," Davis said.

A bank robbery was reported at a bank less than a mile away from where the meeting was happening.

"These bank robberies are a dangerous business," Whitman said, adding that 81 percent of the heists in Denver are solved and the suspect or suspects captured, including 14 caught at the bank or nearby.

Last year, two bank workers were injured, and one person was taken hostage during bank robberies. Two suspected bank robbers, a man and woman, were killed in a shootout with police in Arvada on Nov. 19.

"So the person who's thinking about trying to supplement their income by force needs to remember that it's highly likely that they're going to arrested at the scene of the robbery." Whitman said.

Authorities in Denver said the increase can't be easily explained by the downturn in the economy. The number of bank robberies totaled 214 and 221 in 2005 and 2006, respectively, while the economy was still strong.

"I think that what we see is that bank robberies are kind of a virus and one leads to another," Davis said. "It being tied to the economy or the state of the economy, I think that's a little unfair because what that kind of says is that honest people turn to this sort of thing because they don't have money and I don't think that that's really the case."

A bank robbery conviction carries a sentence of 5 to 25 years in prison.

Sam Clarke, a security director with United Western Bank, said among the prevention measures is new technology.

Three years ago, high definition surveillance cameras cost about $100,000 to install in banks. Now, those cameras that take detailed pictures and allow police to easier identify the suspects cost about $10,000 to install.
 

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