FBI Launches Website for Catching Bank Robbery Suspects

Jan. 2--FREDERICK -- Local newspapers and television stations recently showed a police sketch of a man wanted in connection with the robbery of a Thurmont bank in December.

The chances of catching that man have increased since the Federal Bureau of Investigation posted the sketch to a new Web site. The site, bankbandits.org, is owned and funded by the Maryland Association for Bank Security.

Dedicated to catching bank robbers across the Maryland, Washington and Northern Virginia region, the site is an information repository for the FBI and local law enforcement. The FBI investigates all bank robberies along with local law enforcement because banks are insured through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

"The Web site has a dual purpose: one, to have law enforcement personnel in various jurisdictions see what everyone is doing ... second, to get information out to public," said Richard Wolf, special agent at the Baltimore FBI office.

A gallery of surveillance photos dates back to January 2006, though the site has only been in operation for a few weeks, Mr. Wolf said. In some photos, the suspect's face is covered by a big, red "Captured."

"It's been very successful with different (police) jurisdictions, but not quite there yet with the public," he said.

The ability to compare photographs is invaluable to police, who can contact officers in other jurisdictions to check for similarities or other links.

Mr. Wolf theorized the number of tips from the public will increase when more people know about the site. The FBI is advertising bankbandits.org by distributing pamphlets in banks, grocery stores and other public places, he said.

Reward money, as much as $5,000, for information leading to the capture and prosecution of the robbers is offered through the Maryland Association for Bank Security and programs like Crime Solvers.

Contact information for each police agency is listed beneath robbers' photos, so people can give tips directly to the agency investigating the crime. The tips can also be e-mailed directly to the FBI from the site.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Frederick News-Post, Md.