MIAMI - 2012 saw a spike in bandits targeting banks in South Florida, leaving tellers terrified and an increasing number of robbers on the run.
"You have people out there that are desperate, that are in need of money, that have drug habits, that are just violent in nature and they look at bank robberies, armored car robberies, as a crime of opportunity," said FBI agent David Beall, who heads up the bureau's South Florida Violent Crimes Task Force.
People are robbing banks in record numbers. When the FBI posts its final figures for 2012, it will likely show that, on average, there are two bank robberies each week in South Florida. That's an increase of roughly 33% over 2011.
The silver lining: the task force has been capturing most of these crooks at a fairly fast rate.
Beall told Local 10 the increase in bank robberies can be partly attributed to the economy.
"I think you're seeing people going into banks as their last desperation to get money to solve whatever their financial crisis they have in their lives, " said Beall.
For decades, more often than not, bands of bank bandits were bold, armed and aggressive. While the hardened, gun-toting stick ups still exist, the current crop of robbers appears to be taking a less violent approach.
Agent Beall said robbers are committing more "one-on-one" hold ups, where a lone suspect will approach a teller, demand money and imply they have a weapon.
The people pulling off some of these robberies hardly fit the profile of seasoned crooks. They are soccer moms, young kids whose fathers or mothers put them up to it, and even a groundskeeper known for his work on the PGA Golf Tour.
Chances are if these tough times continue, more amateur robbers will continue to try their luck.
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