Web sites are chock-full of them: images from surveillance cameras that capture bank robbers in the act. Behind the incredible pictures are 7,000 stories — that's about how many bank robberies occur each year.
Ever heard of a bandit called TB Andy? i-CAUGHT has obtained surveillance video of him in action.
Sporting a surgical mask, a floppy hat and looking like something ready for Halloween, TB Andy stands in a bank line for about two minutes and nothing is done to stop him. That curious lack of response may help explain why robberies have increased more than twenty fold since the days of Bonnie and Clyde.
Some people consider robbers to be modern-day Robin Hoods … or a 21st century version of Billy the Kid. But for anyone who works behind a teller window, there is nothing glamorous about a bank robber. Most tellers are women, hired to be open, warm, friendly — and many live in mortal fear of crazed gunmen and gunwomen.
Already this year three bank workers have been killed in holdups. But according to the FBI, most bank robberies do not involve the use of firearms.
Criminals know that robbing a bank with a gun could mean decades in prison, while doing so armed with only a note may put them away for just a few months. For an addict who needs cash for a fix — a history of drug use is a common denominator — that is a risk worth taking. A teller who asked not to be identified told i-CAUGHT that even a note job can be terrifying. "Your heart starts pounding," she said. "You start shaking. You realize it is a note. You are having a hard time reading it."
On average, 23 banks are robbed every day in this country. But in Seattle, robberies are down to a rate not seen in 20 years. One reason may be the innovative efforts of one very motivated crime fighter.
FBI Special Agent Larry Carr is determined to beat back the tide. His office in Seattle sports a rogues' gallery of convicted serial bandits. Before he hunts them, he names them. The catchier the nickname, the better.
Carr rattles them off: "The Nomad Bandit," "Barb the Bandit," and "Attila the Bun." There was nothing really dramatic about Attila's crime spree, explains Carr, but she always wore her hair in a bun. But, he says, "Because we named her 'Attila the Bun,' that made national news and aided in her capture."
And Carr's not alone. The FBI is attaching names to bank robbers all over the country. There's Buffalo, New York's "Hugging Bandit," the "Ponytail Bandit," a pretty blonde who's struck across the South, and from Kentucky, the "Duct Tape Bandit," captured earlier this month (and seen above).
Carr has more than a gift for nicknames — he's got a plan to dramatically reduce the number of bank robberies. It's called Safe Catch. It encourages banks and tellers to be more proactive in preventing holdups and helping to catch robbers after the fact.
He took i-CAUGHT behind the scenes of his Safe Catch operation and provided a rarely seen look into the mind of a robber, sharing some of the factors that contribute to the thousands of bank heists every year. I-CAUGHT has agreed to limit its reporting to what bank robbers already know, either from street smarts, or from what they learn in court and then share in prison.