Toledoans may have thought they were living in the Wild West recently when robbers struck several financial institutions in less than a three-week period.
Bank branches throughout the city and a credit union were targeted last month by robbers who got away with undisclosed amounts of money. One man put a fake bomb made of paper on a bank counter. Other robbers brandished weapons or threatened to be carrying them.
A man was charged with one of the robberies and is suspected of two more during the time frame. But the question remains: Is this a rash of robberies or just an anomaly?
“There really is no pattern. They caught [one man] and since then, we haven't seen two that are the same. They were not in the same area. There were men and women of different races,” said Officer Mark Mugler of the Toledo police department's crime analysis unit, which studied the recent robberies.
Robbing banks, credit unions, and other federally insured financial institutions are crimes of opportunity, authorities said.
Having a rash of them often cannot be explained, especially if different people are involved. They just occur in spurts, like other crimes.
Robbers may go on a spree, especially if they are high on drugs or haven't slept for several days.
“When you get those, they really add to your stats,” Toledo police Sgt. Bob Maxwell said.
From Jan. 1 to March 28, 11 such robberies occurred in Lucas County. All took place in Toledo, said Carl Spicocchi, agent in charge of the FBI office in Toledo.
That total does not include an attempted robbery at the Toledo Police Federal Credit Union earlier this year.
The incidents are double the number of similar crimes that occurred during the same time period last year. The 11 robberies are more than what other counties combined in northwest Ohio have seen in a year's time.
The totals are higher for Lucas County because it has a large city, a denser population, and more financial institutions, Mr. Spicocchi said.
In the other six counties in which FBI agents in the Toledo office investigate such crimes, no robberies or attempted robberies have occurred so far this year.
Mr. Spicocchi said his office has solved about half of the robberies that have occurred so far this year, down slightly from the agency's track record.
“We have a solution rate of 70 to 75 percent,” he said.
In the mix of robberies, one man dressed as a woman and two women were captured by security cameras.
Authorities said seeing a female on the videotape is unusual, but they can be just as dangerous as men.
“Given the data we have, it's not typical that women would rob banks,” Mr. Spicocchi said.
Authorities said women may be sneakier in their crimes or try to con or prey on people instead of being as daring as robbing a bank.
But others said women are starting to commit more violent offenses for a variety of reasons.
Motives for women robbing financial institutions are similar to those of men - being unemployed or feeding a drug habit, Toledo police Lt. Jack Smith said.
“Oftentimes [the women] are there, just not seen,” he said, adding that sometimes women are driving the getaway vehicle.