In Fort Worth Area, Bank Robbers Busy, But Few Escaping the Law

Proliferation of surveillance cameras one factor in arrests following bank robberies

If they did, they might realize that they're probably going to get caught.

Candid cameras

Surveillance photos of the Consistent Bandit were all over the newspaper and TV news. They were good pictures -- in one his sunglasses were pushed back on his head, keeping his hair away from his face.

He was arrested after a Haltom City police officer spotted him driving one afternoon.

Most bank robbers wind up in a jail cell -- especially in Tarrant County.

In fiscal 2005, the Fort Worth-area task force cleared 73 percent of bank robberies, Ensley said.

One reason the crimes are solvable is improved surveillance cameras. High-quality digital photos are often available immediately after a robbery and are so clear that they almost resemble yearbook photos.

"We're getting better and better images of people robbing banks," said Lori Bailey, spokeswoman for the Dallas FBI. "The equipment has improved and that can only help us."

The tellers are aware of this. One at a bank known for good surveillance photos said she always makes sure the back of her hair is fixed nicely because it shows up in images of the robber released to the media.

Texas banks post photos of robbers on a members-only Web site to alert one another about whom to look out for, said Olivia Solis, communications director for the Texas Bankers Association. They also post pictures of people who pass bad checks or commit fraud.

"The photos are really good," she said. "There is also a really good training program for tellers to learn exactly what they should do during a robbery."

The photos are usually the robbers' downfall, Ensley said. They are most commonly caught when a relative or friend sees the image and calls police, Ensley said.

"Someone almost always recognizes them," he said. "That's why they usually don't get away with it."

Those who don't can face decades in prison, depending on how many banks they robbed and whether they used a weapon.

And in the federal prison system, there is no such thing as parole.

(Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth) (KRT) -- 03/13/06)