If it seems like there have been a lot of bank robberies lately, that’s because there have been. The number of bank robberies in SLO County during 2007 and 2008 was nearly quadruple that of the previous five years.
Last year, there were eight bank robberies in the county—the largest number since 2000 when there were 12, according to the FBI field office in Los Angeles. There were seven robberies in 2007, but only one the year before. Before the spike, SLO County only averaged about two bank robberies per year from 2002 to 2006.
Banks are insured by the federal government, so the FBI is generally the leading authority when there’s a robbery. The most likely cause of SLO County’s spike—or at least the most widely believed reason—is the failing economy. FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said the bureau doesn’t try to interpret the reasons why people rob banks, but many robbers claim financial hardship led them to their crimes.
“However, the majority of bank robbers are dealing with an addiction, whether it be drugs, gambling, alcohol, or otherwise,” she said, “and so the common denominator is generally a desperation for cash to feed a habit, and not necessarily the economy.”
Compared to surrounding counties, SLO has an almost negligible bank-robbery rate. Santa Barbara County averaged about 10 per year over the past 10 years, while SLO County had a 10-year average of about four. But SLO County had a proportionately larger spike in 2007 and 2008.
Sheriff’s Department spokesman Rob Bryn couldn’t say for sure why robberies are on the rise, but repeated the old police adage: Banks are attractive because that’s where they keep all the money.