Police: Rash of bank robberies appears to be an 'anomaly' - WFLA News Channel 8

Police: Rash of bank robberies appears to be an 'anomaly'

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Some of the bank robberies that have happened during a rash of them this last week have included plots you would find in a Hollywood script: A robber's claim he has a bomb shuts down a high school and elementary school next door. Another robbery suspect leaves a strip club in handcuffs after police tracked him there following two bank heists in a couple of days.

In all there have been at least half a dozen bank robberies across the Bay area this last week. Four of them happened within two days in St. Petersburg.

"We think it's an anomaly," said Mike Puetz, spokesman for the St. Petersburg Police Department. "It doesn't appear to be a type of trend that we're seeing - especially over our recent history."

Police arrested two men: Erik Michael Durkin, of 10901 Brighton Bay Blvd, Apt #10208, St. Petersburg, for the robbery at the SunTrust Bank on 34 Street North on February 25th and the TD

bank on 22 Avenue North on February 26th.

They arrested him at a cabaret in Pinellas Park.

In a separate incident, they arrested Michael L. Ingram, of 2860 1st Avenue South, St. for the Feb. 27 robbery at the BBT Bank located on 34 Street North and the Feb. 26 robbery at the SunTrust Bank on Central Avenue.

"It frankly is not the kind of crime that really pays out that much," Puetz said. "Last year - we only had five bank robberies in the city. The year before that we only had one. Back in the earlier part of the decade - we would see as many as 30 or 40 sometimes."

In each of the crimes these last two years, they always arrested someone. Still, Hollywood's highly glamorized crime is one that continues to cause major problems.

On Monday, The Venice Police Department rushed to Fifth Third Bank on S. Tamiami Trail after a man claimed to have a bomb. Venice High School and Venice Elementary School went into a lockdown as a precaution since those campuses were so close. Police are still trying to catch the suspect, who appeared to be wearing some type of straw hat.

Overall the instance of bank robbery is down. Florida Department of Law Enforcement numbers show the following trend across the state:

  • 349 in 2011
  • 436 in 2010
  • 506 in 2009
  • 657 in 2008
  • 723 in 2007

"I think - actually - we are seeing fewer and fewer of all the standard kind of street crimes," said Dr. John Cochran, Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida. "They are way down - back to a level they were at in the 1960s."

Cochran said armed robbery is one of the most intriguing for criminologists because it's both an instrumental crime with a motivation to get money and a crime of violence.

"They rob banks because - like the old adage - that's where the money is," he said.

He believes the drop in the number of bank robberies goes beyond better surveillance equipment and security measures for banks.

"They tend to be located in areas where it's harder to get away from," he said. "There's usually only one entrance into the bank usually on a fairly busy road."

He said bank robbery these days can also mean harder time.

"It could be a federal crime as well as a state crime," he said. "You're looking for fairly serious time for an armed robbery."

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