Inside the FBI Bank Robbery Task Force

FBI: Geezer Bandit carries out 11th heist

The day is off to a busy start.

In Lakewood, Colorado, an armed man has just robbed a Liberty Savings Bank located in a strip mall on Alameda Avenue. Police officers have caught up with him, cornering him in an apartment building about half a mile away.

As police cruisers with flashing lights block the street and officers string yellow crime scene tape, Lakewood Police commander Jeff Streeter dials the bank robbery specialists at the FBI's Rocky Mountain Safe Streets Task Force.

VIDEO: An inside look at an FBI task force thats taking on bank robbers.
Inside the FBI Bank Robbery Task Force

"It was one of our first phone calls," says Streeter. "They have resources available that complement our resources."

Soon after the call, FBI Special Supervisory Agent Phillip Niedringhaus and several team members are on the scene to offer assistance and guidance. After a few tense moments, the Lakewood officers are able to talk the man out of the apartment and take him into custody.

"So now it's putting together the pieces," says Niedringhaus. "And finding the gun and finding the money and the clothes that he used."

Soon the team and the handcuffed suspect are on the way back to Safe Streets headquarters, located inside a 1910 stone and brick building surrounded by railroad tracks and livestock pens near the old Denver stockyards.

VIDEO: Officials say an elderly man has already robbed eight banks in California.
FBI Hunts for 'Geezer Bandit'

The elevators are decorated with cow hides that give off the aroma of leather, and security cameras monitor a locked door where visitors must ring a buzzer when they arrive.

The nine-member team is made up of FBI agents and officers from the Denver, Aurora and Lakewood police departments along with investigators from the Jefferson County Sheriff, Colorado State Patrol and Federal Protective Service.

FBI officials say cooperation with local law enforcement agencies is critical to the team's success.

"They make up 50 percent of our manpower out there," says James Davis, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Denver office. "I think that losing police departments from our task force would be devastating to us."

The team members are specialists in violent crime, responding any time of day to kidnappings, bank robberies and the hunt for fugitives. Every Monday morning, they meet in a fourth-floor conference room to discuss cases from the previous week, sharing intelligence, comparing notes and brainstorming.

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Man's Hug Stops Bank Robber

One of the first tasks is assigning a catchy name to the newest bank robbers. One robber from the previous week carefully wipes away his fingerprints from the bank teller counter.

"He's the Spic-and-Span bandit," Niedringhaus suggests.

After a few minutes of discussion, the team agrees to call him the "Tom Thumb Bandit" because he was once seen on surveillance cameras wearing a cast or bandage on his hand.

"Naming is very important," says veteran Denver police Detective Mark Woodward, the bank robbery coordinator for the Safe Streets Task Force.

Woodward says naming the robbers helps keep them straight among investigators with full caseloads. It also helps garner public interest in the bandits, which can lead to tips that might help crack a case.

"We try not to pick names that glorify them. We try not to pick names that put them down too much," Woodward says.

The current crop of bank robbers hitting Denver-area banks come with names like the "Hoppin' Hooded Bandits," for the way they storm into a bank and hop over the counter.

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