Bank robbers are on pace to have their busiest year ever in the Chicago area, reports the Chicago Tribune. The Chicago area set a new record for bank heists last year, with 240 robberies in the five-county region. By Tuesday, with more than three months left in 2006, this year’s total already has reached 206. “The record-setting pace of last year never abated,” said Mitchell Marrone, FBI assistant special agent in charge in Chicago. More than 30 banks have been targeted in the area so far this month, with the FBI occasionally handling two robberies per day.
FBI officials said there is no clear-cut reason for the jump in robberies. The local economy hasn’t seen a recent downturm, and the unemployment rate hasn’t spiked. The increase could be due to the fat that more bank branches than ever are open; many small branches operate in city storefronts and suburban supermarkets. They keep longer hours and stay open on the weekends. Authorities noted a jump in the number of “takeover-style” heists, which have increased 75 percent since 2004. “Usually there are weapons involved, and there’s more of a chance for violence,” Marrone said.