JOPLIN, MO. Federal authorities are blaming "serial robbers" for helping to boost the number of bank robberies this year in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas.
The FBI has tracked 13 bank robberies in its Joplin territory in 2006, including nine within Joplin city limits. Only two robberies were reported in the region in all of 2005.
The region includes Jasper, Newton, Lawrence, McDonald, Barry, Barton, Dade and Vernon counties in Missouri, and Cherokee, Crawford, Labette and Bourbon counties in Kansas.
While most of the heists have been relatively routine, the Nov. 9 robbery of the American Bank in Galena, Kan., involved the abduction of a bank teller and his wife. Authorities said that's an unusual and concerning development.
FBI Special Agent Gary Johnson in Oklahoma said serial robbers could explain the jump in robberies, and authorities already believe some of the Joplin robberies were committed by the same person.
While that drives up the number of crimes, it also means law enforcement is looking for a smaller group of suspects.
"Nationwide, we average about 65 percent of bank robberies that are solved," said FBI Special Agent Jeff Lanza in Kansas City. "That's after one bank robbery. The more they rob, the greater the chance that we catch them."
While bank robberies make up about 2 percent of all robberies, FBI crime statistics show such robberies are the most lucrative for criminals, taking in an average of $4,169, compared with an average score of $1,230 for all robberies.
Lanza said a bank robbery is solved when someone is charged with the crime.
Joplin police have charged Antowan Wade of St. Louis with bank robberies on March 28 and April 27, as well as the robbery of a Best Buy in February.
Police also think the same person robbed First State Bank in Joplin on Jan. 17 and Feb. 2.
Another robber likely hit Great Southern Bank locations on June 26 and July 31, police said. No one has been charged.
One Great Southern Bank location in Joplin has been robbed three times this year, authorities said, and another has been struck twice.