'Cub Fan Bandit' Only the Latest in Long Line of Chicago Robbers

By Kari Lydersen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 16, 2007

CHICAGO -- Maybe it's not surprising that, in a city famous for bank robbery, two brazen bandits practice their craft with a show of civic pride.

The Chicago Bandit, responsible for at least eight heists, is known for his blue ball cap inscribed with the city's name. The Cubs Fan Bandit, wanted in three robberies, wears headgear celebrating a local baseball team.

Metropolitan Chicago logged a record number of bank robberies in 2006, for the second year in a row. The 284 holdups surpassed the 2005 record of 240. How busy was it? On Sept. 25, a downtown bank was hit twice.

And 2007 is off to a fast start, with six robberies by Jan. 9.

No one really knows why, but the FBI speculates that multiplying storefront and grocery-store branches provide attractive targets.

Chicago is not alone: Los Angeles, New York and Dallas also experienced more bank robberies last year. Dallas County had 145 bank robberies in 2006, up from 64 the year before.

"To have that many in this area is astronomical," said Dallas FBI spokeswoman Beverly Esselbach.

Los Angeles -- "the bank robbery capital," according to FBI spokesman Bill Carter -- led the country with 470 bank robberies, up from 455. L.A. robbers included the camera-toting Paparazzi Bandit, who was known for photographing tellers, and the Goofy Hat Bandit, who wore a black fedora. Washington's total jumped to 50, from 26 in 2005.

New York's total of 290 was up from 229 the year before, but FBI spokesman Jim Margolin said the city's decline in armed heists with the potential for violence is more significant than the uptick in nonviolent "note jobs."

The trend in armed bank robberies "has been down in recent years," he said, noting that there were 45 robberies with a clearly armed assailant in 2005 and 28 in 2006. "We hesitate to speculate why, but some think there's a correlation with the economy or demographics. The aging of the population means a decrease in the male 18- to 30-year-old population, which criminologists believe is responsible for most crimes."

Melvena Cooke certainly doesn't fit that profile. Cooke, 79, is charged with trying to rob a downtown Chicago bank in September with a toy gun. Cooke, who was wearing a visor saying "Princess," left without any money and was quickly arrested.

Several high-profile Chicago suspects were caught in 2006, including the Harry Caray Bandit, who dressed up like the beloved late Cubs announcer, and the Panama Jack Bandit, wanted in 10 robberies and known for wearing a straw hat.

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