Police officials and representatives of New York City’s financial institutions will meet today to plot strategy against a rising tide of bank robberies, the Los Angeles Times reports. As of April 13, there had been 159 holdups this year, compared with 57 at that time. If robberies continue at the current rate, New York’s 2003 total easily would exceed last year’s 250. Nationwide, bank robberies also are rising.
The robberies come at a time when New York is experiencing its worst fiscal crisis since the 1970s and the police department is stretched thin. The city has been on constant elevated alert since the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Several factors appear to be contributing to the robbery renaissance. “You have got more people looking for ways of making money – legally or illegally,” said Manhattan Dist. Atty. Robert M. Morgenthau, who has proposed a public safety surtax on people working in New York to counter proposed cuts in law enforcement budgets. And banks are “much more open than they used to be,” he added. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has criticized some bankers for considering robberies simply a cost of doing business. He said surveillance cameras that recycle videotape often do not provide usable images of robbers.
The amounts taken during most holdups range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars – the sum a teller can hand over quickly. Most robbers, officials said, merely pass threatening notes. In only 55 of the cases last year were weapons displayed. “Banks have made the decision to cut back on guards and give the robbers generally smaller amounts of cash,” said Mark Lerner, president of EPIC Security Corp.