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NAME THAT BANK ROBBER
Catchy Monikers Help Nab Culprits

06/25/07

Bank surveillance images of wanted "Ponytail Bandit"
The "Ponytail Bandit" is wanted for bank robberies in Texas, California, and Washington.

We call her the “Ponytail Bandit.” She’s a pretty young woman whose shoulder-length blonde ponytail sprouts from the back of her baseball cap in images captured by banks she allegedly robbed in three states in May. In each case she approaches bank tellers, demands money, and then waits, arms crossed, slouching slightly, as tellers comply.

That she doesn’t seem to fit the stereotype of a bank robber—brazen, masked, gun-slinging—has drawn a lot of interest in her story, whatever it may be. But the bottom line is the woman captured on grainy bank surveillance tapes in Texas, California, and Washington is a bank robber committing a crime.

Recognize Me?
- Unknown Bank Robbers
- bankbandits.org
- labankrobbers.org

With her distinguishing moniker, the “Ponytail Bandit” joins the ranks of hundreds of other bank robbers sought or captured by the FBI and local law enforcement agencies. We play a direct or indirect role in all bank robbery investigations and compile detailed statistics on bank and armored car heists, which last year amounted to more than $72 million in stolen loot.

Here’s a look at a few creative ways we’re working with local authorities and banks to catch robbers or prevent heists before they happen:

  • In Baltimore, Special Agent Jeff Cisar worked with public and private entities last year to create a website specifically to spotlight suspected bank robbers in the Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia regions. The site, bankbandits.org, is seeded with a catalog of surveillance images from area bank robberies and offers a way to provide tips online.
  • In Los Angeles, Special Agent Stephen May took a page from Agent Cisar’s playbook and, through partnerships with other agencies, created labankrobbers.org, which covers seven counties in Southern California. The site, like Baltimore’s, features dozens of still surveillance images, as well as a category of “serial bandits” distinguished by colorful monikers assigned by Agent May—“Bad Rug Bandit,” “Banana Bandit,” “Paparazzi Bandit.”
  • In Seattle, Special Agent Larry Carr is the man behind some of the most unique names assigned to bank robbers—“Attila the Bun,” “Groundhog Day Bandit,” Hollywood Bandit.” The catchy names serve dual purposes—a hook for media attention to help solve robberies and a tool to help investigators track serial suspects. Meanwhile, to help prevent bank robberies in the first place, Agent Carr developed a tactic designed to put potential robbers on their heels—shower them with immediate personal service. Agent Carr’s “Operation Safecatch” tutors bank employees on how to recognize potential trouble and then take action—which in many cases simply means breaking the ice with a “customer” before they get their nerve up to act. Carr credits the tactic, which throws potential robbers off their game plans, for a recent drop in bank robberies in the Seattle area.

Agent Cisar in Baltimore said the push to catch bank robbers by posting all of their images on the Net has been effective—both in leading to captures and aiding local police investigators and private industry in an era of tightening resources.

“We want everyone looking at these sites,” he said. “You might recognize someone.

You just never know.”