Tipsters do come forward, including childhood friends, relatives, and former coworkers, says Fairfax detective Jake Jacoby. Aggrieved ex-wives or ex-girlfriends are another common source of tips, he says: “There are some angry people out there.”
One way of generating news coverage in a robbery investigation is the use of nicknames. The names, more memorable than a case number, are sometimes dreamed up by detectives, sometimes by crime reporters trying to make page one.
The inspiration for nicknames has many sources. From attire: the Trenchcoat Robbers, the Fishing Hat Bandit, Panama Jack, the Garden Glove Bandit, and Bad Bart, a Houston bandit who wore a big black cowboy hat. From hairstyle: the Ponytail Bandit, Attila the Bun, and the Dreadlocks Bandit. From pop culture: the Barbie Bandits and the Harry Caray Bandit. The Paparazzi Bandit always took pictures of the teller, the Striptease Bandits sometimes forced employees and customers to undress, the Skunk Bandit dressed in black and white, the Visine Villain had bloodshot eyes, and the Clearasil Bandit had bad skin.
Washington’s biggest splash in the nickname game involved the Cell Phone Bandit. The young woman robbed four banks in Northern Virginia during a three-week stretch in 2004, getting lots of media attention because surveillance cameras caught her casually talking on a cell phone as she presented tellers with a holdup note. She was talking with her boyfriend, who was in a getaway car outside.
They weren’t exactly Bonnie and Clyde—she showed a weapon in only one robbery—and it turned out they were unlikely thieves. She was an attractive 19-year-old community-college student, and he was a 19-year-old who had worked in one of the banks they robbed. Young lovers who had taken a shortcut to easy cash—$48,000 in all—they ended up where most bank robbers go: They each got 12 years in prison.
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