Tucson Crime Craze: busting bank robbers - Tucson News Now

ONLY ON KOLD: Tucson crime craze

Posted: Updated:
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

When it comes to bank robberies, there's a big difference between what happens in Hollywood and what happens in reality.

Most cases don't involve shootouts or elaborate disguises.

But there's usually an element of deception.

And almost always an element of danger.

High stakes, high drama, high energy.  

This is what so many of us envision when we think of bank robbery when, in fact, most cases are just the opposite.     

Yes, the stakes are always going to be high when you're committing a federal crime.

But the most successful bank robbers are those who don't even seem like they're committing a crime in the first place. 

"In all three incidents he brought a note into the bank.  The note stated that he had a gun and he demanded money," says Tucson Police Detective Scott Haynes referring to an unidentified serial bank robber.

Investigators say it's all a matter of blending in, seeming like any other customer inside the bank.

There are always going to be exceptions to this, like the guy wearing a black hoody and ghost mask at a recent heist in Kentucky.

You can imagine what happens to him when a fearless customer takes matters into his own hands and tackles the robber from behind.

Then there's the guy who decided to dress up as Santa Claus just a few days before Christmas.

"He was actually jovial, which is scary and he explained he was robbing the bank because Santa had to pay his elves," said witness Richlyn Jones outside the bank.

Ole Saint Nick was eventually caught and sent to prison.

Those who get away are usually those who look and act like everybody else.

"We've had more robberies occurring in some grocery stores this year, with the mini branches," says Tucson Police Detective Steve Erdman.

Of Tucson's 27 bank robberies this year, 12 have occurred at satellite offices inside grocery stores.

Eight of them, police say, at the hands of one suspect.

He's referred to as the fedora robber because in each case he's caught on surveillance tape wearing a hat.

"They're able to case the area a little easier without drawing attention to themselves," Erdman says.  "Because it's not unusual for people to walk around and shop around different areas of the store."

In late September, the fedora robber apparently went to the well too many times and got himself caught.

He likely become too comfortable going back into the grocery store after each robbery in an attempt to blend in, then just walk away.

The fedora robber has since been identified as 22 year old Francisco Lopez, who was arrested along with two other people in Tucson's biggest string of robberies this year.

Good news is nobody was hurt in any of these cases.

No gun was ever even drawn.

But again, there's always that chance every time a bank robbery occurs.

"That's always the concern...is how desperate is that person?" Erdman says.  "How willing are they to use what they have on them?

One Tempe-area bank robber didn't kill anybody with a gun.

But he did with his car trying to elude police.

It may be an extreme example.

But one that demonstrates what can happen anytime somebody robs a bank.

"That's just it," Erdman continues.  "It's an unknown potential in any bank robbery.   We don't know how far that person that's committing that crime is willing to go."

Copyright 2012 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by WorldNow