Most heists are quick. No gun, no weapon, just a bag full of stolen cash and a quick getaway before police arrive.
Posted throughout most banks, however, are cameras aimed at entrances and counters in hopes of capturing the biggest clue robbers can leave behind – their faces.
With the right images, local and federal law-enforcement officials expect to catch up to robbers sooner rather than later.
Last year, 37 bank robberies were reported in Orange County, a sharp drop compared with recent years, said FBI special agent Chris Gicking of Orange County’s Bank Robbery Apprehension Team, a local task force that includes local and federal investigators.
In 2012, 75 bank robberies were reported. In previous years, Orange County often saw more than 100 bank heists a year.
“It’s been gradually decreasing,” Gicking said.
Why reasons are not known, but members of the BRAT have been running into fewer serial robbers, Gicking said.
Unknown robbers usually are assigned colorful nicknames that attract media attention and help give investigators from multiple agencies a common reference point.
The Gone Plaid Bandit, for example, has been one of the most prolific robbers in Orange County and has eluded investigators since 2010.
Since he first showed up in security-camera images, the Gone Plaid Bandit is believed to have been behind at least one dozen robberies in Orange and Los Angeles counties, Gicking said.
He received the name because of the plaid shirts he was spotted wearing during his first heists.
Like most bank robbers, he’s used little more than a note and a verbal warning in his robberies, officials said.
Then there’s the Count to 30 Bandit, known for ordering victims to count to 30 as he makes his getaway. He is believed to be responsible for four takeover-style bank robberies in Orange County.
In takeover heists, the robbers often display weapons and attempt to halt business in the bank to commit robbery. Those events can sometimes turn violent.
But those robberies tend to be a fraction of all bank robberies, according to numbers provided by the FBI.
Last year, takeover-style robberies accounted for 18 percent of all robberies in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. In Orange County, seven of the 37 bank robberies were takeover heists.
Investigators also are searching for the Big A Bandit, a serial robber known for wearing an Angels baseball cap during the robberies. He is believed to have robbed three banks in Orange County.
Other robbers are on the lam, but investigators said they have not been linked to multiple heists.
Cameras in banks often catch clear images of robbers, and officials hope someone in the community may identify them. Most robbers have a criminal past, Gicking said, and may be recognizable to law-enforcement officials, including parole officers and patrol officers.
Anyone with information on robberies is asked to contact the FBI at 714-939-8699.
BY SALVADOR HERNANDEZ / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
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