They were once known as Baby Face Nelson and Pretty Boy Floyd. These days, serial bank robbers have names like “The Geezer Bandit” and “The Bubble Wrap Bandit.” I was invited to a press conference where the FBI this week released the names of the top 10 most wanted bandits in Southern California, still considered the bank robbery capital of the world. The photo above of the Geezer bandit is provided by the FBI. From my story (Feb. 2, 2011, Daily News):
The Explosives Threat bandit leaves a device made of electronic components, and shouts, “I have a bomb!”
The Interleague Play Bandit wears sunglasses and baseball hats with various sports team logos.
And the Geezer Bandit – who has hit 16 banks since 2009 – has been described as an aggressive older, white man, who may be wearing a mask and synthetic gloves to disguise his true age.
Their names may be funny, their characteristics memorable, but police say these three lone bandits are among the 10 most wanted serial robbers in Southern California who can turn a plain old stick-up into a potentially violent crime.
“There’s usually no violence but the threat of a gun pointed at a teller is dangerous in and of itself,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca.
Baca joined the FBI and other law enforcement agencies Wednesday to announce that the number of bank robberies have decreased in Los Angeles County and across California compared to a decade ago. That’s due to better collaborations between law enforcement agencies and the United States Attorney’s office.
Clear bank surveillance photographs, proactive bank security, and continuous media reports, also all have helped reduce the number of robberies, said Tim Delaney, a special agent in charge within the criminal division of the FBI.
Of the 24 bank robberies in the city of Los Angeles last year, 11 were solved while 5 remain under close investigation, he said.
“We’ve seen an amazing reduction in overall robberies,” said LAPD Commander Andrew Smith, who noted that the gangster-led takeover robberies of the 1990s are gone.
One of the most notorious occurred 15 years ago this month. Known as the North Hollywood shoot-out, two heavily armed bank robbers exchanged gunfire with LAPD officers on Feb. 28, 1997. Both robbers were killed, and eleven police officers and seven civilians were injured.
In the last several years, investigators have noted that most bandits are lone figures. At least 25 percent are armed. And the take per heist: an average of $1,500.