Bank robberies plummet downtown Better communication, more arrests credited for 68% dip in Central District

January 10, 1998|By Jamie Smith | Jamie Smith,SUN STAFF

The number of bank robberies last year plummeted almost 70 percent in the center of Baltimore -- where many banks are concentrated -- and city police are attributing the drop to improved communication between businesses and officers, increased security and news of high arrest rates.

Bank robberies in the city as a whole also fell last year, but less dramatically -- 13 1/2 percent, from 133 in 1996 to 115. Such robberies were up in four police districts. The biggest increase was in the Northern District, from six bank robberies in 1996 to 32 last year.

The number of arrests made last year in city bank robberies also went up, from 87 in 1996 to 98.

Central District Maj. Steven McMahon, whose area includes downtown Baltimore, said he thinks the city arrest rate was a factor in his district's decrease in bank robberies, which fell from 67 in 1996 to 21 in 1997, a decline of 68.7 percent.

FTC "I think the word got out that it wasn't even worth it robbing those banks," he said.

But the main reason for the drop in bank robberies was better communication, he said. After a large increase in such crimes in 1996, banks and police worked together.

Bankers called officers with information about suspicious people. Monthly meetings between businesses and Central District police allowed the two groups to stay up to date on area incidents. And a Web page set up last year,, includes pictures of bank robbers taken by surveillance videos.

Lt. Larry Leeson, commander of the city robbery unit, said banks have taken more precautions. Some have hired guards or installed metal detectors.

"We think that any bank robberies are too many bank robberies but it is exciting to see a decrease in the numbers," said Joanne Stevens, a NationsBank spokeswoman.

Around the city, the number of bank robberies fluctuated. In the Southeast District, they rose from nine in 1996 to 19 in 1997, while in the Western District they fell from two in 1996 to none last year.

In Baltimore County, bank robberies skyrocketed, rising from 74 in 1996, a good year, to 129 in 1997, said Special Agent Joseph M. O'Hara, supervisor of the Baltimore FBI violent-crime squad. O'Hara attributed the increase to the number of banks opening in the county. "If you have more banks, you're going to have more robberies," he said.

Leeson said the increased number of robberies in Baltimore County and in the Southeast and Northern districts of Baltimore resulted from robbers avoiding downtown. "I think we pushed them out of the core of the city and moved them farther out," he said.

Pub Date: 1/10/98

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