Bank holdups are surging in Baltimore

May 11, 1993|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

Three banks were robbed yesterday in Baltimore, bringing the city's total to 44 -- nearly four times the number of bank holdups at this time last year and putting the city on a pace for its worst year ever.

Statewide, Maryland is also well on the way to shattering its record for bank robberies in a year, the FBI said.

"There's no question we've had quite a significant surge. We're well ahead of the pace to set another [state] record," said Special Agent Andy Manning, spokesman for the Baltimore office of the FBI. "We've been looking for a break but it hasn't come yet."

The three Baltimore robberies yesterday brought the city's total to 44, compared with 12 at this time last year, police said. The record of 96 bank robberies was set in 1980.

In Maryland, the total number of bank holdups as of May 1 was 114 -- nearly half of the 219 robberies in 1992, the state's worst year, Mr. Manning said.

The 1992 total broke the state record of 208 set in 1981. Most of the robberies last year occurred around October, November and December, typically big months for holdups, Mr. Manning said.

Of the 70 bank robberies committed in Baltimore last year, the FBI reported, 33 occurred in November and December.

"What's surprising about this year is that we've had so many robberies so early in the year," he said.

It's uncertain what is at the root of the recent surge, although generally, most bank robberies are committed by drug users, according to FBI studies.

"We find that most of them [bank robbers] are doing it to finance a habit. The more serious the habit, the more frequently they hit," Mr. Manning said.

Chief among the areas hard-hit by the robberies are Baltimore City and Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

Bank officials are aware of the increase in holdups, and some are taking extra security measures. In two of the three Baltimore robberies yesterday, the thief tossed away a bag of money after a dye pack exploded, police said.

The first robbery occurred about 10:35 a.m. at the Signet Bank branch in the first block of S. Charles St. downtown. A man gave a teller a note saying he had a gun and was given some cash that included a dye pack. When he ran outside, the dye pack exploded, police said.

The robber ran off, leaving the money bag stained with red dye on the street. It was later recovered by police.

At 1:20 p.m., a man walked into the First National Bank in the 700 block of N. Howard St., showed a teller a gun and handed over a note demanding money. He had just walked out of the bank when a dye pack exploded. He then dropped the bag and run away, police said. The money was recovered.

Police said the two robberies appear similar, and that the same man may have been duped twice by the dye-pack ploy.

The third robbery was reported shortly before 1:30 p.m. at the Provident Bank of Maryland in the 5400 block of Harford Road in Northeast Baltimore. Two gunmen stole an undisclosed amount of cash and fled. No dye pack had been put into the money bag, police said.

Although most bank robberies are committed by a single gunman , some robbers use other methods, such as working in teams or using threats that they are armed with explosives. In a robbery last month at the Slavie Federal Savings & Loan Association in the 700 block of N. Collington Ave., a man poured a flammable liquid on the tellers' counter and threatened to set it afire, police said.

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