FBI, police hunt for bank burglar who cuts through walls in Georgetown, Woodley Park


Members of an FBI evidence recovery team walk passed the M&T Bank on Wisconsin Ave. NW. (Daniel C. Britt/THE WASHINGTON POST)
August 24, 2012

D.C. police and the FBI are trying to determine whether one man is responsible for an unusual string of bank break-ins in Northwest Washington, getting inside by cutting holes in the walls of adjacent, vacant storefronts.

Two break-ins occurred at the same Bank of America branch on Connecticut Avenue in Woodley Park: on May 24, 2011, and on Aug. 17 of this year.

The latest occurred after 2 a.m. Friday at M&T Bank on Wisconsin Avenue in Georgetown, forcing the branch — which had just opened Aug. 6 — to close for the day and possibly on Saturday, a spokesman said.

Police couldn’t say if the same person committed all the break-ins, but an FBI spokeswoman said that the “methods are very, very similar.”

The culprit or culprits escaped empty-handed each time, police said, unable to get money from the automated teller machines that appeared to be the target.

Police said that empty buildings are being used as a cover while someone cuts through the wall.

A tool hasn’t been recovered, but surveillance photos have twice captured images of a person dressed in a white waterproof jumpsuit.

“This very much looks like a serial robber,” said Doug Johnson, vice president of risk management for the American Bankers Association, a trade group based in Washington.

He said those responsible “might expect to enjoy a certain level of anonymity” and have “time to accomplish their crime.” He added, “It’s up to us to frustrate all that and make sure they’re not successful in the future.”

According to FBI statistics, there were 5,014 bank robberies in the United States last year, compared with 60 bank burglaries. In the District this year, there have been six bank robberies in addition to the three burglaries.

At the M&T branch in Georgetown on Friday, FBI agents examined the scene in the 1400 block of Wisconsin Avenue, between O and P streets, lined with boutiques and coffeehouses. Passersby paused near the yellow crime tape that was draped between vintage-looking street lamps.

The bank is between a clothing shop advertising a $99 sale on suits and a row of four vacant storefronts, their windows covered with brown paper and old signs pushing deals that expired long ago.

In one spot, only the brick facade stood; behind it was a pile of rubble.

The two break-ins at the Bank of America branch, in the 2600 block of Connecticut Avenue, caused significant structural damage.

Surveillance pictures released by the FBI show that in the first break-in, the man appears to be wearing street clothes. His face was not fully visible.

Pictures from subsequent break-ins show a man in the white jumpsuit, described by the FBI as a Tyvek suit, made by DuPont and resembling a decontamination suit.

It’s commonly used by construction workers and people working with hazardous materials. During Friday’s break-in, he was also wearing a blue baseball cap.

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