WASHINGTON (12/19/12)--The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has established a new Wanted Bank Robbers website to house videos and surveillance photos of robberies in progress and to provide a map of robbery locations in an effort to solicit the public's help nationwide in nabbing the criminals.
Last year, robbers walked away with more than $38 million in cash from banks, credit unions, thrifts and armored trucks, said the FBI in a blog. The money was recovered in one out of five cases. In the unsolved cases, surveillance images of suspects were often posted online on
FBI wanted posters and elsewhere to enlist the public's help.
The new site, bankrobbers.fbi.gov, features a gallery of unknown suspects and a map function that plots robbery locations. Users can search by name, location or other factors. Search results deliver a "Wanted by the FBI" poster that contains more images, a suspect's full description, and a brief narrative about the crime.
"This website is an operational tool that will help law enforcement identify and prosecute bank robbers more quickly, with the public's help," said Jason DiJoseph, who runs the bank robbery program at the FBI's Washington, D.C., headquarters.
"The idea is to make it easier for the public to recognize and turn in potential suspects and to draw connections between robberies in different cities and states," he added.
The FBI has had a prominent role in bank robbery investigations since the 1930s, when John Dillinger and his gang were robbing banks. In 1934 it became a federal crime to rob any national bank or state member bank of the Federal Reserve System. The law soon expanded to similar crimes. Today, the FBI's focus is mostly on violent or serial cases.
"Bank robbery sounds like an old-fashioned crime, but it is a dangerous and often violent criminal act that still results in the loss of lives and takes a significant toll on local communities," said DiJoseph.
Bank crime statistics support the emphasis on the more violent cases. While demand notes are bank and credit union robbers' most frequently used tools (2,958 times in 2011), they are followed by firearms (1,242 times) and the threat of weapons (2,331 times) or explosive devices (154 times).
Even in cases where weapons are not used, the risk of violence increases each time a serial robber holds up another financial institution.
Of the 5,086 financial institution robberies, burglaries and larcenies last year, 201 included acts of violence and 70 involved the discharge of firearms. Thirteen people--the robber in 10 of the cases--were killed during robberies.
The new website will include the most pressing robberies from the FBI's 56 field offices. New features and more suspects will be added in the next few weeks and months.