At least 10 bank heists blamed on Wicker Park Bandit

January 31, 2012 4:45:21 AM PST
At least 10 bank robberies on the city's North Side are being blamed on the Wicker Park Bandit.

The FBI has released surveillance pictures from the robberies in hopes of finding the suspect. The latest bank robbery blamed on the bandit took place Saturday morning.

Another bank in Wicker Park was robbed again Monday for the second time in 10 days. But investigators say Monday's robbery is not the work of the so-called "Wicker Park bandit." The FBI released new surveillance image of those robbers responsible for the heist at the Chase Bank on the corner of Ashland and Division .

"It makes me feel pretty uncomfortable going inside a bank with something like that going on," said bank customer Jeff Levine.

In the past seven weeks, the so-called bandit has robbed 10 banks, the most recent one a Chase Bank in the 3500-block of North Western on January 28. His choices are getting riskier. Lane Tech High School is across the street from the bank and Area 3 police headquarters is just two blocks away.

"Our experience has shown that the more robberies that they commit, the bolder they get, the more likely it is that violence will become a part of their robbery," said FBI Chicago division's Joan Hyde.

So far, no one has been hurt.

Speaking to ABC7 at its Chicago headquarters, an FBI spokesperson says that the "Wicker Park bandit's" modus operandi is to approach the teller and either verbally announce a robbery or present a note. He claims to have a weapon but so far has never displayed one.

"He seems to be exceptionally bold in the fact that he does not do much to disguise his identity," Hyde said. "That's worked out to our favor in that it's provided us with some excellent surveillance photos."

The robberies began December 13, and despite his name, only a handful have taken place in Wicker Park. They are all, however, located on the city's North Side.

"It may be that he's familiar with the area. It may be that he has easy access to transportation that can get him out of the area," said Hyde.

Despite the recent string of holdups, the FBI says bank robberies are down 50 percent in the Chicago area. In 2011, only 115 were reported.

Furthermore, the FBI says that three out of four bank robbers are eventually caught, and their conviction rate is nearly 100 percent. For some Chase Bank customers the hope is that the "Wicker Park bandit" will eventually become part of that statistic.

"I think he's running out of time. Eventually he'll get caught because they do have his picture, multiple pictures, so hopefully we catch him soon," said bank customer Phenesha Sanders.

Chase Bank says it is working with the FBI and the Chicago Police Department to catch the robbers.