Unsolved Bank Robberies Increase - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Unsolved Bank Robberies Increase

Burlington, Vermont -- February 1, 2007

The number of unsolved bank robberies is on the rise in Vermont.

Nearly half of all bank robberies are go unsolved in Vermont and lately the robbers have been doing even better.

Bryan Young was shocked when he got the call informing him that his family bank, the First National of Orwell, had been robbed.

"You definitely take it personally," said Young, the bank Vice-President.

Police say a lone masked robber passed a note to a teller demanding money, and then drove away in a red car with Virginia plates. He's still on the loose.

Some were surprised the Orwell bank was targeted because it is Vermont's smallest, just 1500 depositors.

Young says the bank draws as many tourists as customers, perhaps because it is by far Vermont's oldest bank. He is almost certain the robber was not from the area.

"The chances of somebody locally getting in here and out of here without being recognized would be pretty slim," he said.

The Orwell bank job was one of four similar stick-ups in Vermont last year. Three of them remain unsolved.

The police and FBI are still looking for the crook who held up the Union Bank in Jeffersonville in June.

They are also looking for the creative bandit who robbed the new branch of the Northfield Savings Bank in South Burlington in September,  on opening day.

He wore a fake nose, and made a clean getaway on a bicycle in noon-hour traffic. He had plenty of time to escape because the police were forced to deal with a box he left in the bank.

He said it was a bomb. It proved to be a hoax. But no one knew that until after authorities evacuated a nearby school and hotel. One bank employee was forced to freeze at her desk for more than an hour.

"I can't tell you for sure but it was a long time when she had to sit behind that desk staring at this box, thinking that it was an explosive device and that she might die at any moment," said Trevor Whipple, South Burlington Police Chief.

The FBI says there were 51 bank robberies in Vermont over the last decade. and nearly half ... 22 of them -- are unsolved. Over the last two years the bad guys have done better: 11 banks were knocked over. 8 of them, nearly three-quarters, are unsolved.

"Preventing the next terrorist attack is our most important directive," said Paul Holstein, FBI Special Agent.

Holstein says 9-11 changed the priorities for the FBI,  but bank robberies are not being put on the back burner.

"I stress that does not mean we neglect any other areas, but we do prioritize the use of our resources to ensure, trying to ensure that there are no future terrorist attacks. We hit our priorities obviously in the order of importance," he explained.

It's still a top priority for South Burlington Police Chief Trevor Whipple.

"It's a difficult case. The individual that perpetrated this crime put a lot of forethought into it. They put a lot of twists and turns into the case that really caused some initial delays," he said. 

Bryan Young knows that solving bank robberies can take some time. His bank was robbed once before.

"Back in 1900 during the middle of the night somebody tried to dynamite the safe," he explained.

But the robbers didn't get much from the bank back in 1900 because the safe did not open and it's still in use today.

As for the more recent robberies, authorities point out that some bank robbers are later caught for other crimes, and are never prosecuted for robberies that may forever remain technically "unsolved."

Brian Joyce - Channel 3 News

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