By Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times
Bank robberies in New York City soared by 64 percent last year over
2002, driven by an increase in unarmed robberies, the police said
There were 408 bank robberies in 2003, an average of more than one a
day, the police said. The vast majority of those - 342 - were carried
out without the use of a weapon, the police said.
The police gave few details on the reasons for the increase. Michael
O'Looney, the Police Department spokesman, said the banking industry
had not taken enough steps to combat the robberies, including
installing closed-circuit television systems and bullet-resistant
barriers to protect bank employees. Unarmed bank robberies are often
carried out by robbers passing demands for cash to tellers on pieces
Typical of the pattern, on Dec. 16, a man passed a note demanding
cash to a teller at a branch of the Valley National Bank in Midtown
Manhattan. The man fled without getting any money.
"Over all, the banking industry has not done enough to address the
problem," Mr. O'Looney said. "We plan to put an even greater focus on
which banks are cooperating with our best practices and those that
are not. We expect better results in 2004."
The increase in bank robberies this year contrasts with the city's
dropping crime rate. Robberies of all types were down last year by
4.5 percent compared with 2002 and by 69 percent compared with 1993.
The murder rate, now hovering below 600 per year, is less than half
the rate in the early 1990's.
National figures, available only for 2002, showed that the rate of
serious crime remained unchanged in that year from 2001, according to
a report issued by the F.B.I. in October. The national robbery rate
for that year dropped by 1.8 percent from 2001.
An analysis of bank robberies in 2001 showed a national increase of
18 percent from 2000, the report found.
In New York City, the police have stepped up efforts to combat the
problem. Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly has sponsored a City
Council bill to require banks to set up barriers of bullet-proof
glass to protect tellers. Some banks have resisted, saying they do
little to thwart robbers.
Nationwide, the average amount of money taken in a bank robbery is
less than $5,000, according to the F.B.I. report.