Alleged Downtown serial bank robber caught - purple-handed
Little more than a month after the arrest of the infamous "Fishing Hat Bandit," Minneapolis Police and FBI agents captured his alleged, lesser-known bank-robbing rival - one they say targeted Downtown banks.
This suspect's noteworthy attire: the latex gloves he wore in every holdup.
An FBI agent arrested Derwin Hiram Bailey on Valentine's Day morning as he allegedly robbed the Associated Bank in the IDS Center's skyway level. Bailey was charged the next day in federal court with one count of bank robbery. It was his 48th birthday.
Bailey is suspected of nine other bank robberies since early December - seven in Downtown, four at banks in the skyway.
He has a 30-year-long criminal history that includes numerous arrests for theft, narcotics and aggravated assault.
Although Bailey's arrest will surely ease the minds of local bank employees and customers, the 'Rubber Glove Robber' is not the only one robbing banks recently.
Last year was record-setting for bank robberies in the nine-county metro area. According to FBI Media Coordinator Paul McCabe, there were 92 metro area bank robberies in 2004, and 24 already this year. Since Jan. 1, six Downtown banks have been robbed (four by the alleged serial robber). FBI press releases for 2004 show 15 Downtown hold-ups committed between September and December. Many of those have been solved, said McCabe.
McCabe said that arrests are made in 70 percent of bank robberies. Serial robbers, relatively rare five years ago, are the norm now, he said. Theories for the jump include a stagnant economy and drug abuse.
The Rubber Glove Robber was bold and prolific. For two months, he robbed an average of one bank per week, most daytime heists in the city's bustling business district. BankFirst, on the skyway level at 800 Marquette Ave., was his target three times; his arrest marked his second visit to Associated Bank.
There, an FBI agent was waiting.
According to an FBI news release, an undercover agent began surveillance from the second floor of the IDS' Crystal Court at 8:20 a.m. the day of the arrest.
The agent didn't have to wait long. At 8:40 a.m., a man matching the suspect's description approached the main-floor escalator. His dark, puffy jacket, knit cap, and tennis shoes were similar to those worn in previous robberies.
Perhaps most conspicuous, though, were his hands; the man gliding up the IDS escalator was wearing purple latex gloves.
Surveillance photos show the suspect walking right past the undercover agent, who then followed the suspect. When the would-be robber entered into the Associated Bank, the agent asked a security officer at the nearby Wells Fargo Bank to dial 911.
By that time, the suspect was at the teller, where he presented a demand note: "Don't make me use this GUN," it read. "I Want 100s, 50s, and 20s NOW."
The suspect had used this tactic before, and more than once he had shown what looked like a silver handgun. He was unarmed when arrested.
Remaining outside the Associated Bank, the undercover agent confirmed silently with a bank employee that the bank was being robbed. The agent then drew his gun and entered the bank as the suspect walked towards him holding $1,800 in cash. He ordered the suspect onto the ground, and the suspect complied, according to McCabe.
City police arrived within minutes and assisted in the arrest.
The suspect's jacket had a red stain on it, possibly from a "bait money" dye pack that had exploded in a robber's hands during a South Minneapolis heist a month earlier.
"The bank robbery business is a bad business to be in," said McCabe. "You're going to get caught."
Considering the increase in bank robberies, that fact doesn't seem to be deterring would-be bandits. Although he could find "no discernible pattern" for the increase, McCabe said it is not unusual to see a spike in bank robberies committed around the holidays and that drug addiction is a factor in a great majority of cases.
Debra Hurston, director of marketing and communications for the Minnesota Banker's Association (MBA), blamed a struggling economy for the increase.
"When things are going poorly, there's a general increase in all types of crimes, and bank robberies are absolutely no different," Hurston said.
Luther Krueger is civilian crime-prevention specialist for Downtown's 1st Police Precinct. He said skyway banks are targeted frequently simply because there are so many of them, but the nature of the business can contribute to the problem as well.
"They want good customer service, they want convenience," Krueger said. "That's the whole point. The banks have a wide-open space; you can walk right up to a teller, there's no impediment."
Once at the teller, a robber almost always gets what he wants. Krueger said that tellers can hit panic alarms that alert 911 or plant "bait money" with red dye packs that will explode after five or 10 minutes, but neither McCabe nor Krueger recommend that tellers try to stop or delay a robber.
"The number one priority is the safety of employees and customers," said the MBA's Hurston.
She added, "Every single bank goes through training [but] it is virtually impossible to get [the MBA] or bankers to talk about security."
Or, as US Bank spokesperson Amy Frantti put it, "We don't talk about security for reasons of security. We don't want to tip our hand to people that are robbing banks."
In three of four bank robbery cases, Krueger meets with the bank to walk through and give recommendations on crime prevention. Techniques might include positioning greeters or a manager's desk inside the entrance, upgrading outdated security systems or installing a guard.
"I can't remember the last time [a bank was robbed] when a guard was actually there," Krueger said.
"[Banks] are always happy to have somebody walk through," he added. "But what I tell them they should do, they're not always happy to hear."
Said the FBI's McCabe, "We encourage banks to upgrade their [security camera] systems to protect employees and customers, but we don't have any power but to encourage them to do so."
New digital technology can be controlled by a bank's manager or security officer through a laptop, according to John Pearce, marketing manager of financial and banking for ADT Security Services, the nation's largest provider of business sector security systems. Information and photos can be emailed almost instantly to authorities and other banks.
Updating a security system at a branch location, like many in the skyway, might cost between $25,000-$35,000, Pearce said.
Hurston said banks share robbery information through a regional "Fincrime" (financial crime) network.
"If bankers can be aware of what's coming, that's a large part of the battle," she said.
Many arrests come from tips, said McCabe, and the MBA offers rewards, ranging on average from $300 to $3,000, for tips about robberies of MBA member banks. Authorities get descriptions and photos out to the media, where a family member - or an ex-wife, McCabe said with a laugh - might recognize the suspect and call the police.
On rare occasions, the FBI will add substantial rewards for high-profile suspects; the "Fishing Hat Bandit" warranted a $20,000 reward, but neither his nor Bailey's arrests were based on tips.