March 7, 1997 in Nation/World

Banks ‘Clobbered’ By Holdups Robbers Stage Four Robberies In Four Days

By The Spokesman-Review

Four Spokane-area bank robberies in the last four days leave police and FBI agents with this question:

What are the odds of a fifth one today?

“We’re just getting clobbered with bank robberies,” a police official said after the fourth holdup Thursday.

The lunch-hour robbery occurred at the Wells Fargo bank on North Hamilton. The suspect matches the description of a man who robbed another Wells Fargo branch Tuesday in the Valley.

There have been no arrests, and the FBI is investigating.

Agents are looking at bank surveillance photos, hoping to identify two or three men thought be be involved in the robbery spree. One of the robbers, appearing particularly scraggly, is believed to have pulled two of the heists.

Each occurred between noon and 3:30 p.m. Each involved only single tellers, and aren’t what the FBI describes as “full-bank takeovers.”

None of the holdups involved visible weapons, but in at least one case the robber implied he had a gun.

Less than $1,000 and sometimes only a few hundred dollars are usually grabbed in single-teller holdups. The FBI and bank officials don’t disclose amounts taken in the belief that it might encourage more robberies.

There have been five bank robberies in the Spokane area so far this year, equaling the total for all of 1996, the FBI says.

On Jan. 9, a man wearing a fake white beard robbed Inland Northwest Bank at 15111 E. Sprague. He fled after tellers stuffed two money bags full of cash.

“There is quite a rash going on here,” one senior agent said, saying he had no plausible explanation.

There’s been an epidemic of bank holdups statewide.

In January alone this year, the FBI reported 50 bank robberies in Washington - almost triple last year’s January total.

Sometimes, a bank robbery spree is related to drug supplies drying up in a community and becoming more expensive. But there’s nothing to suggest that’s the situation in Spokane, police say.

Until the robbers are arrested, tellers across town will report to work with lumps in their throats.

Nearly all banks have surveillance cameras and silent alarms. Some are now adding security officers, one bank official said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos Graphic: Spree of bank robberies

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