The Return of the American Bank Robber

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It conjures up images of eras long gone; of Jesse James and gangsters and getaway cars. But the old-fashioned bank robbery is back. From 1995 to 2001, the number of bank heists rose by 17 percent, according to the FBI. In small towns, bank robberies have risen by over 80 percent.

Today's bank robber is far from the professional gangster of the John Dillinger era. There was the polite robber in New Orleans who handed a note to a bank teller that read "would you please give me the money?" Or the two men in Annapolis, Maryland, who held up a branch of Allfirst Bank with toy guns.

While the robbers may not all be as "professional" as the thieves of old, the sharp rise in heists is a cause for alarm for the banking industry. Some banks are considering banning customers from wearing hats or sunglasses when they visit their local branch. Others are considering hiring Wal-Mart-type greeters to keep their eyes on customers.

This hour, a look at the alarming rise in the number of American bank robberies. What is behind the trend and what can be done about it?


William Rehder, retired 33-year veteran Special Agent for the FBI who's been acknowledged as the most experienced bank robbery investigator in the U.S., author of the upcoming book "211 Silent"

L.R. Kirchner, True Crime writer and author of "Robbing Banks: An American History 1831-1999"

Bruce Spitzer, Director of Communications for the Massachusetts Bankers Association

This program aired on May 15, 2002.


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