The Rise and Fall of the Bank Robbery Capital of the World

At 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 29, 1983, a man the FBI called the Yankee Bandit walked into the lobby of a Bank of America in the Melrose district of Los Angeles and stood in line. When he got to the teller window, the well-dressed man politely informed the woman on the other side of the counter that he had a gun and would she please hand over the cash. After tucking $1,740 into a briefcase, he apologized for any trouble, thanked her, and left. About 30 minutes later, the Yankee Bandit was 16 blocks west at the City National Bank going through the same routine and walking out with $2,349. Four hours and 6 heists later, the Yankee Bandit was in possession of $13,197 in stolen cash. None of this surprised the FBI, because Los Angeles at the time was on the brink of the greatest bank robbery epidemic ever seen. Between 1985 and 1995 the 3,500 retail bank branches in the region were hit 17,106 times. In 1992, the worst year of all, there was an unimaginable 2,641 heists, one every 45 minutes of each banking day. By 2000, better technology, facial recognition software, license plate readers, cell phone cameras in the pocket of every citizen, and surveillance cameras that texted photos of bank robbers to every copy in the area, caused bank robbery to take a back seat to other crimes and Los Angeles was no longer the bank robbery capital of the world.