ROCKVILLE – County bank robberies year-to-date are double the number reported during the same period in 2018, according to Montgomery County Police (MCP) data, but police have not determined why.
The number of bank robberies from January to October increased from five in 2018 to 11 this year. MCP reported a total of eight bank robberies in 2018.
MCP spokesperson Officer Rick Goodale said Oct. 11 that police have not determined possible reasons for the increase in the crime.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball in terms of why certain crimes happen more than others or why there’s an increase in crimes,” said Goodale. “There could be a multitude of factors involved.”
The most-recent bank robbery occurred Oct. 9, in which a suspect entered Old Line Bank in Rockville and took an undisclosed amount of cash, Goodale wrote in a news release. First District officers from Rockville City Police determined that the suspect passed a note to a teller demanding cash and implying they had a gun. The suspect took the cash and left the bank.
Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying a suspect in the Oct. 9 Old Line Bank robbery. Anyone with information about the suspect or the bank robbery may contact the major crimes division at 240-773-5100. Tipsters may call anonymously to give a tip to Crime Solvers of Montgomery at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477). Anyone with a tip that leads to the arrest of a suspect may be eligible for a reward of up $10,000.
Goodale had said in March that it was not clear if bank robberies were on the rise, as they can be up for a two-month period and then drop the next. MCP spokesperson Capt. Tom Jordan said, also in March, that police are concerned when robberies of commercial businesses occur because the suspects might attempt another bank robbery. If that happens, and suspects are more aggressive the second time, it could develop into a violent encounter which could result in harm to the officers or to witnesses.
This year, a single suspect committed multiple robberies; however, he died before the police had an opportunity to arrest him. Police determined Shivi Brian Mohanani-Neil, 28, of Pottstown, Pa., robbed the SunTrust Bank in a Safeway located at 14939 Shady Grove Road, in the Falls Grove area of Rockville, three times between January and March. Then, he committed a fourth robbery at a different branch of SunTrust in April, according to MCP.
Jordan wrote two months later in a June news release that Mohanani-Neil was found dead in Hagerstown, Md. Detectives had already obtained a warrant for his arrest.
The most serious incident involving a bank was an attempted robbery that occurred Jan. 16, in which an officer shot and killed a suspect Mikyas Mehary Tegegne, age 31.
Tegegne had appeared at the BB&T bank on the 1100 block of Wayne Avenue across the street from the Discovery building and entered the manager’s office, demanding $20,000 in cash and said he had a bomb in his backpack. He left the bank without the money and later ran into Officer Christopher LaPointe, while he still had his backpack. The officer then shot him. First responders gave him medical assistance and transported him to a hospital, where he died from his injuries. LaPointe’s actions were determined to be justified, according to a report by Bethesda Beat.
Janet B., a frequent user of the Silver Spring BB&T bank, said in January she is very familiar with the employees who work in the branch. She said she had been wondering what the employees’ thought process has been since the incident.
“It must be an awful experience; wouldn’t you be a little scared when someone comes in and threatens any type of violence,” Janet said. “… But you have to try to go back to your regular routine, and these things happen in every place.”
On Jan. 16, MCP had been investigating a bank robbery occurred at the SunTrust Bank located inside a Gaithersburg Safeway grocery store in the Quince Orchard Marketplace on Jan. 12. Police said they could not confirm if Tegegne was connected to the Quince Orchard incident.
According to FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) data, 13,382 robberies occurred in 2018. The 2018 total was a 6.3% decrease from 2017.
That number does not refer to the entire United States, because it consists of data from jurisdictions that use the same reporting system as itself, which includes Montgomery County Police. It includes robberies that occurred in other commercial businesses, on the street, in residences and various other locations, as well as in banks. The largest percentage of robberies, 36.3%, occurred on the street or on a highway, with the average amount stolen being $1,739. Bank robberies made up the smallest percentage, at 1.6% with an average value of $4,303.
The FBI reported that the number of bank robberies in 2018 decreased 18.2% from the total in 2017.