Burlington, Vermont - December 5, 2011
Bank robberies are on the rise in Vermont. Twice as many banks have been hit this year compared to last year, including a recent unique holdup in Swanton.
He's being called the bicycle bandit after allegedly holding up the People's United Bank in Swanton last month and using his bike as the get-a-away vehicle. But 26-year-old Allan Reynolds says he didn't do it. The self employed plumber with prior convictions in both burglary and bank robbery pleaded not guilty in court Monday to grand larceny charges.
Reynolds is the latest in a slew of bank robbers hauled into court for their alleged crimes. According to Vermont State Police, bank robberies are on the rise.
Since 1997 an average of six banks a year are hit in Vermont. The robberies spiked in 2000, 2009 and 2011. This year eleven banks have been robbed and there's still one month to go. November proved the worst -- four banks were hit that month. Investigators say the spike coincides with the state's growing drug problem.
"The common theme with these bank robberies is persons getting quick money to support their drug habit," said Vermont State Police Capt. David Covell.
Another trend -- according the police -- most robbers threaten violence but don't actually use it. Out of the 11 bank robberies this year only two of the robberies involved weapons.
"What we have seen in the past is again what we're seeing this year is that the persons who are committing the bank robberies go in and pass a note to the teller implying that they are armed or have a weapon," Capt. Covell said.
Police urge bank employees and customers not to take matters into their own hands. They say a good set of eyes is often the best way to help out.
"Having good witnesses at the scene, not only inside the bank, but outside the bank as well. People not only getting a description of the robber but also the vehicle that they're in and the plate number they have," Capt. Covell said.
Good eyewitnesses coupled with improved surveillance equipment are upping the arrest rate. Gone are the days of grainy photos. Many banks have invested in high tech camera equipment that produce sharp images -- images that landed Reynolds in court.
According to court papers, Reynold's girlfriend recognized him from this surveillance video that aired during the Channel 3 newscast and contacted police. A trend that police say is helping them close more cases. "The quality of it has increased greatly over the years and that is a big help to us in our investigations to be able to identify people," Capt. Covell said.
Three of this year's bank robberies remain unsolved -- one in Waitsfield and two in South Burlington. As for Reynolds, he's being held on 50-thousand dollars bail.