Bank robbery ‘solve’ rate climbing as surveillance photos get clearer

They won’t admit it publicly, but FBI agents used to hate the amateurish technology that all but invited people to rob banks. But it seems the days of grainy photos are gone, as this stunning portrait of a Lakewood bank bandit shows. Sparky here hit three branches inside of two weeks:

Photo Credit: 1
Photo Credit: Taken Sept. 15, 2010
Photo Credit: Taken Sept. 15, 2010

FBI PHOTO: Taken Sept. 15, 2010

Sept. 15: Sovereign Bank, 555 Madison Avenue (Route 9 North), Lakewood;

Sept. 20: The Bank, 205 East Kennedy Boulevard, Lakewood (this try was aborted for some reason, authorities said);

Sept. 27: Wachovia Bank, 3001 Route 9 North, Howell; he wore a blond wig covered by a bandana this time.

In each case, he used a note, threatening to use not one but several weapons. No one saw any firearms; just the notes.

He has pretty much followed the usual bank robber script, with one minor exception: For some reason, the vast majority of holdup men wear Yankee caps; this guy likes the football Giants (whose nickname, like FBI agents, by the way, is the G-Men).

Authorities are hoping the striking portrait will shake loose the tip that puts him in prison. So take a close look, just in case.


  • White, late 20’s to 30’s
  • 5’10” to 6’2”
  • Stocky: muscular forearms and calves
  • Closely-cropped hair
  • Cleft chin
  • Pointed nose, hangs slightly left (honest)

Why are we telling you this? Because there could be money in it — for you.

First and foremost, a caution. No one wants to see anyone else get hurt — so, please: Billy, don’t be a hero. All you need do if you see or know of any bank robbers is call police (remember: the alarm button in the bank goes to the branch‘s particular security company and NOT the local cop shop).

Here’s another, taken at a Hamilton holdup TODAY

Even if you hit 911 on your cell and dropped it on the floor, you could help get a budding hood off the street.

Or give the FBI a shout: (973) 792-3000.

In return, the government offers rewards for information leading to the capture and successful conviction of said buds.

It might seem odd, but in these tough economic times, bank robberies in New Jersey have gone down. Roughly two thirds have been solved by the feds or local police — and in all but a few, the banks involved had window barriers or other devices aimed at keeping employees safe.

That makes the government happy. No reason to make it easier for someone to hold you up.

Research shows, in fact, that customers couldn’t care less what the bank looks like. Most would just as soon exchange greeters and barrier-free exhange points for digital surveillance, as opposed to those that produce worse images than the portables you buy at the drug store.

After all, they have business to tend to — so, for them, “customer-friendly” means one thing: In and out quick. Robberies tend to close branches down for the day while the C.S.I. team does its thing.

“It’s not anecdotal when you talk to the actual bank robber,” a federal investigator told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “Bank robbers target specific banks based on their security.”

One major bank, which must go unnamed, has been “very responsive to adjusting their security based on the risks in the area — past bank robberies, trends,” the investigator said. “So it can be done.”

Newark-based FBI Bank Robbery Coordinator Steve Siegel said he couldn’t discuss details of any cases or banks. But he conceded that investigators have noticed more banks increasing security at high-risk times and taking other steps to force a would-be Bonnie or Clyde to think twice.

And it’s not just the equipment that’s changing; It’s the positioning of the cameras, as well. Hitchcock would be proud.

Those images are now being posted regularly on the FBI website Northeast Bandit Tracker, which the FBI says has been directly responsible for boosting the area’s “solve rate.”

“You can’t catch somebody if people don’t know what he looks like,“ Siegel said. “This has become an important tool. People will see the website, recognize whoever it is and call in.”

And why would they do that, we asked the supervisor.

(Yes, we know: That question has already been answered, above. Nothing wrong with a little positive reinforcement, though….)

“Because of the reward,” Siegel responded. “We provide good money for information.”

Beats robbing a bank.

To see photos from a host of holdups in New Jersey and New York, go to:

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