Percentage of Bank Crimes Solved Going Down in Wisc.


MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The percentage of bank robberies cleared in Wisconsin has decreased since 1999 -- and more of those heists are occurring in suburban and rural areas.

FBI statistics show Wisconsin's bank robbery clearance rate, when a suspect is arrested in the year the crime occurred, has decreased from 75.4 percent in 1999 to 53.3 percent in 2003.

There is no indisputable reason for the decrease, and some say it's just an aberration to the state's historically strong record of solving bank and credit union robberies.

One theory, though, is that suburban and rural police have fewer resources but are increasingly the authorities called to handle the crimes.

A few years ago, about half of Wisconsin's bank robberies occurred in Milwaukee, while in 2003, only 27 of the state's 92 bank heists took place there. Milwaukee police, which has a unit dedicated to solving bank robberies, cleared 80 percent of them with arrests.

The fewer robberies solved also may be due to the FBI's increased focus on fighting terrorism. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the FBI no longer can assign as many people to solve bank robberies, said Linda Krieg, supervisory special agent of the violent crime squad at the FBI's Milwaukee office.

"We will not cut back completely on bank robberies," she said. "We just don't have as many resources to go out on them as we did years ago."

Law enforcement authorities in the Milwaukee area said they generally have good relationships with banks, but added some could do a better job of impeding possible robbers and installing monitoring equipment.

For example, some banks still use surveillance cameras with 35mm film, which police say is time-consuming to develop, or black-and-white videos, even though digital and color videos are available. Others fail to properly angle their cameras to get the best picture of a robber.

"One of the things that we often speak with the banks about is updating their video equipment and making sure they have fresh tapes in their equipment all the time," Krieg said. "That is another problem -- that a tape may be used over and over again and the quality of the tape gets worn down."

In a robbery in Brookfield in September, the bank's surveillance camera produced a clear color photo of the robber as he stood at the teller window demanding money.

But the camera was angled downward, so the robber's cap covered the top of his face.

"You can have the best camera in the world, but if it's not placed properly or turned on, it's not going to do you any good," Brookfield police Capt. Phil Horter said.

According to Jerry Wiesmueller, vice president for corporate security for M&I Marshall & Ilsley Bank and a security consultant to banking trade groups in Wisconsin, digital surveillance systems cost from $8,000 to $10,000 per branch, while traditional video systems range from $3,000 to $4,000.

Wisconsin Bankers Association spokeswoman Cheryl McCollum said the trade group was concerned about the rising number of unsolved bank robberies but could not say for certain what was behind it.

Banks typically do risk assessments and get the prevention and surveillance equipment they believe is appropriate, she said.

"It's hard to make sweeping generalities that banks aren't doing enough," she said. "I think there are some that are doing a great deal to make sure their technology is up with the times."

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