Two men burst through the door of a bank in a St. Louis suburb earlier this year, waving handguns in the air. One, wearing a ski mask, jumped the counter and headed for the vault, while the second man, wearing a baseball cap pulled low and a stocking mask, stood guard. An accomplice waited outside. All were gone within minutes. Most bank robberies don’t involve shouts and guns, but the FBI has counted eight “takeover-style” robberies in the St. Louis area so far this year. That means the robbers were armed, displayed the weapons and took control of the bank. Last year, there were no such robberies in the area.
“My bank robbery guys say they’ve never seen it like this,” said John Gillies, head of the St. Louis office of the FBI. There has not been a similar spike in overall bank robberies, at least not yet. University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Richard Rosenfeld said one reason could be desperation stemming from stronger bank regulations. Many banks have started banning customers from wearing hoods, hats or sunglasses, which takes out the option of surreptitiously passing a note to a teller while disguised, he said.