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Federal Way bank robberies add up in 2009

Suspect in Nov. 18 robbery at Key Bank in Federal Way. - Courtesy image
Suspect in Nov. 18 robbery at Key Bank in Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy image

This year, compared to recent years, brought a spike in citywide bank robberies.

Banks across Federal Way have become victims. As of Dec. 7, a total of 12 robberies have taken place in 2009. Several of the cases are unsolved.

Small details of the robberies are grabbing attention. May and October were the busiest months, each bringing three robberies. Many of the robberies occurred within days of one another. Weapons were not used or implied in the two most recent incidents, on Dec. 4 and 7. Half of the robberies were carried out in the past three months. But these and other details have not led police to an overarching pattern in the robberies, nor have most of the suspects been detained.

"We are always looking for patterns or connections somehow," Det. Jeff Vanderveer said. "Nothing is jumping out that says any of these are related."

Repeat targets

Some banking establishments were hit multiple times. Key Bank was robbed four times this year. Of those, three robberies took place at the Twin Lakes location, 1918 SW Campus Drive. The bank takes robberies seriously, but does not discuss the crimes or its prevention efforts, said Anne Foster, Pacific Northwest division spokeswoman.

"You can be certain our policies and procedures are adjusted as needed to react to situations that are current in that area," Foster said.

U.S. Bank and Heritage Bank were twice-over victims as well. U.S. Bank's incidents took place Jan. 30 and May 8. The latter is the same date Heritage Bank was robbed. That bank's two robberies happened within one week of each other, according to police records.

Still, more banks were victims this year. Chase (formerly Washington Mutual), Sterling Savings, Columbia and HomeStreet banks have each been robbed once, according to police records.

Suspects

With the exception of the suspect in the Aug. 24 robbery of Sterling Savings bank, many of the suspects have not been identified. Joel Crom, 24, was caught on video surveillance robbing the bank. He was shot and killed by police Sept. 3 when a tip led them to a Federal Way residence where he was located. Crom threatened officers, at which point they shot the suspect. Crom later died at Harborview Medical Center. The officers were placed on administrative leave, pending an outside investigation.

There does not appear to be a connection between the other suspects, police spokesman Raymond Bunk said. Police are unsure why there have been so many robberies lately and why half of them took place in the past three months.

"Nothing is jumping out that says any of these are related," Vanderveer said.

Motive

Washington Bankers Association president Jim Pishue has a theory. The banking organization works in conjunction with the FBI. It offers rewards for tips that lead to the arrests and convictions of bank robbers. Bank robberies generally occur when two conditions are present: High and increasing unemployment rates, and impending holidays, he said.

"As we approach holidays, as far as I know, bank robberies have a tendency to escalate during this time," he said.

Following a robbery, police take measures to identify and apprehend suspects. They set up a perimeter, blockading exit points near the bank, Vanderveer said. They also collect evidence, sometimes including video or photographs of the suspect, he said. When appropriate, that information is distributed to other law enforcement agencies, and some bank branch managers, to alert them to the suspect, he said. Police also rely on tips to catch bank robbers, he said.

In comparison

Last year, five bank robberies took place. Three of the robberies occurred at Rainier Pacific Bank locations; two of the robberies were at the 35007 Enchanted Parkway South location and another at 1900 S. 320th St. First International and Center Bank were each targeted once, according to police records.

In 2007, six bank robberies took place, according to police records. U.S. Bank and Chase Bank were each robbed twice. Rainier Pacific and Bank of America were robbed once each, according to police records.

Anyone with information pertaining to this year's bank robberies is asked to call Det. Jeff Vanderveer at (253) 835-6791 or e-mail jeffrey.vanderveer@cityoffederalway.com.

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