New Bank Robbers Website


June 19, 2009

You can help catch bad guys. Besides the wanted posters at the FBI’s website—FBI.gov—the Chicago FBI office and area police now have a brand new website, BanditTrackerChicago.com.


Audio Transcript

Mr. Schiff: Hello, I’m Neal Schiff and welcome to Inside the FBI, a weekly podcast about news, cases, and operations. You can help catch bad guys. Besides the wanted posters at the FBI’s website—FBI.gov—the Chicago FBI office and area police now have a brand new website, BanditTrackerChicago.com.

Mr. Rice: “We have over 30 different suspected robbers on the website right now.”

Mr. Schiff: That’s Ross Rice, a special agent at the FBI’s office in Chicago.

Mr. Rice: “We started the new website, called BanditTrackerChicago.com. We launched the site in mid-May with our partners on the Violent Crimes Task Force here in the Chicago FBI office; the Chicago Police Department and the Cook County Sheriff. And it’s a website devoted exclusively to bank robbers that are targeting the metropolitan Chicago area.”

Mr. Schiff: We asked Rice how this idea came about.

Mr. Rice: “We have a permanent task force called our Violent Crimes Task Force that’s housed here in the Chicago FBI office comprised of, obviously, FBI agents, Chicago police officers, and Cook County Sheriff’s deputies. That task force is responsible for investigating many of the violent crimes under our jurisdiction, including bank robberies. For the past four years, we’ve seen a record number of bank robberies in the five-county metropolitan area that we cover out of this office, with over 200 robberies being recorded each year. The record was set in 2006 when we had 284. We looked at the technology that many banks are now employing, that is, the digital imaging that they have. We’re getting almost portrait-quality photographs of many robbers, some of whom make no attempt at all to conceal their identity. So we have this great photo of a robber, but we don’t know who it is. So we feel that by going out to the public, and we’ve been able to do this on a limited basis through press releases and media contacts, and getting the photographs in the paper, on TV, we get a very good response from the public. We felt if we could take this to the next level and have a full-time website devoted exclusively to bank robbers, that members of the public can go to any time and look at, not just the most current case, but archived cases, we would have an even greater success. So that’s why we were able to launch this site .”

Mr. Schiff: How does this work? Rice says pictures and information are on the Internet day and night for you to see.

Mr. Rice: “Everything comes through our office. We are the central repository for the bank surveillance photographs, for the reports on bank robberies both in the city and the surrounding suburban area. So we upload information on each robbery as it comes in. In the case of a serial robber, that is someone who has committed more than one robbery, there would be one entry for that person, but all the different robberies that we suspect their involvement in, would be listed in that case when you click on to it. There are multiple digital images from each robbery. We take, obviously, the best photos that we have, that show most accurately and clearly who the offender is. But a private citizen, a member of the public, could go to this website 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They can scroll through all the different bank robberies, and I think we have over 30 different suspected robbers on the website right now. They can look at photos. They can print photos. They can download the wanted flyer. And most importantly, if they’re so inclined to do so, they can submit a tip online, anonymously.”

Mr. Schiff: One of the cases up on the BanditTrackerChicago.com website is the Beach Bum Bandit case.

Mr. Rice: “He was so named because of the very casual attire that he’s worn into the banks during the three robberies that we know he’s involved in—shorts, floppy hats. He even had a soft-sided portable beverage cooler that he brought with him on two of the robberies, and he used that to put the proceeds of the robbery into when he made his escape .”

Mr. Schiff: Rice says the Beach Bum Bandit is considered armed and dangerous; he’s displayed a handgun during all three holdups.

Mr. Rice: “In fact, he’s even threatened bank employees with harm if his demands were not met and his instructions not followed .”

Mr. Schiff: The FBI and police can’t catch these robbers alone. You, the public, can help. Rice says don’t get directly involved, but be vigilant.

Mr. Rice: “If someone is in a bank and it’s being robbed, we suggest that they take no actions; they don’t try and intervene. They should follow the robbers’ instructions explicitly. In most cases, bank robbers are armed, and we don’t want to cause a confrontation where someone is going to get hurt. The money is insured; it can be replaced. Many times it’s recovered when we make an arrest, but we can’t do anything if a person is killed. So we want them to follow instructions and be good witnesses .”

Mr. Schiff: Indeed. Rice says banks have better cameras today, but they don’t capture every single movement.

Mr. Rice: “There are certain mannerisms, speech patterns. There might be small marks, scars, tattoos that aren’t visible to the camera, but a person in the bank might see that. And that’s the type of stuff that we’re asking for, people to be cognizant of, and to try and be a good witness when they’re in a bank if it ever should get robbed .”

Mr. Schiff: Keep in mind that you are the eyes and ears for police officers and FBI agents. Check out BanditTrackerChicago.com. You might recognize a bank robber. And the FBI has hundreds of wanted flyers for your review on the Internet at www.fbi.gov. That concludes our show. Thanks for listening. I’m Neal Schiff of the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs.

Audio Download