FBI says bank crimes lower in 2011
by Amanda Stegall
Jul 04, 2011 | 1674 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Criminal activity involving banks has slightly decreased from 2010, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, identity theft, forgery and fraud remain a concern on local and national levels.

Nationally, between the months of January and March, 1,081 robberies, nine burglaries and two larcenies were reported to the FBI. These numbers may be inaccurate, though, as many crimes are not reported to the bureau. According to the report, approximately $7.5 million has been taken in 88 percent of all incidents and over $1.7 million has been recovered.

According to the bureau, demand notes presented at the counter in a branch office continue to be the most frequently used form of theft. Oral demands were reported in 598 instances and written demand notes were used 611 times. Threats are more common than actual firearm or wielding of a weapon, with 268 robberies performed with the aid of a firearm and 472 threats.

Throughout each situation, surveillance cameras and alarms were activated. Not every suspect has been apprehended, and few injuries and deaths have occurred. During the first quarter, 24 injuries, three perpetrator deaths and seven hostage incidents were reported to the FBI.

Statewide in the first quarter of 2011, 29 bank robberies were reported to the FBI. Another incident occurred Thursday in Gwinnett County after a man armed with a firearm robbed a Wells Fargo branch and injured the teller while firing three shots inside the building. The suspect is believed to be the same man who robbed a Wells Fargo in Snellville. The bank is offering a $50,000 reward for information related to the case.

The last bank robbery in Bartow County was reported in September 2010. Two Adairsville branches were robbed at gunpoint by two different suspects. No injuries were reported and both men were later captured. One stated that he "needed money." Neither of the men were residents of the county.

According to an Associated Press survey, economists are reporting growth since the recession's official end two years ago, but increasing gas prices create a standstill for true growth as people continue to spend less back into the economy and more for fuel. Based on the statement from the Adairsville robbery suspect, tough economic times are to blame for robbery motives.

"Our main objective now, with all the banks closing, is to make sure they don't let their security lax," said Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap. "We don't tell them what to do, but with all the banks being sold, closed and taken over, [we want them] to have the best security system they can afford to put in place because we need those cameras."

Incident reports for both the county and city of Cartersville have revealed few robberies, but the crime does occur on a local level. The Banana Boat, Get-N-Fly and Walmart have been victims of robbery within the past six months. No injuries were reported in the business-related incidents, but residential robbery reports have seen injuries.

Residentially, victims have been physically harmed by suspects, most of whom demand cash. One man was coaxed out of his home to meet with a woman who claimed an interest in a residence for rent. Once in the vehicle, the man was attacked from behind.

Local law enforcement advises caution in all situations. Millsap noted that identity theft is a main problem officers see frequently. "It's not bad checks anymore," he said, "but people are taking pictures of pin numbers." Another common offense seen locally deals with financial transaction card fraud. According to Millsap, servers at restaurants can change the tip total if patrons pay with debit or credit cards. "Check your total with online banking when you get home," Millsap suggests, "that way you'll know exactly what's going on."

Counterfeit money remains an issue as well. "People are waiting until places are crowded or going through the drive-thru where the money won't be checked," said Millsap. "Would you think to check a $5 or $10 bill? No. But they're using the small bills now and sometimes it's hard to tell."

The Department of Labor issues a guide on how businesses and employees should react to intense situations such as a robbery. Throughout the guide, employees learn that memorization of as many details about the suspect as possible are key elements to capturing the offender. Also, the department asks everyone involved to note the direction in which the suspect flees and to remain calm while obeying the commands of the suspect.