FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) -- A surge in bank and credit union robberies has police in Indiana's second-largest city worried that serial robbers may be behind the heists, some of which have involved employees being bound or injured.
Fort Wayne has seen 15 bank and credit union robberies in 2012 -- more than in the past four years combined, according to Fort Wayne Police Department records.
Although most of those cases remain under investigation, Fort Wayne Police Chief Rusty York told the Journal Gazette (http://bit.ly/WdMXM2 ) for a Sunday story there's definitely evidence of serial robbers in the heists.
"There's a proportionate number of events that we know are caused by the same individuals," he said.
Local financial institutions said they are cooperating with law enforcement. Six of the 15 robberies have occurred at Chase Bank locations, including one branch that's been robbed twice this year.
Chase spokeswoman Christine Holevas declined to discuss security in place at its locations in the city, but she said Chase continues to work closely with law enforcement.
"Our folks are doing exactly what we've asked them to do," she said.
Three men have been arrested in this year's robberies to date. Two have been convicted, and the third man is scheduled to stand trial in January.
York said the Fort Wayne area saw a high number of bank robberies in the late 1990s, before the creation of the Northeast Indiana Bank Robbery Task Force in 1999.
That task force, which includes members of the Fort Wayne Police Department, Allen County Sheriff's Department, Indiana State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is "very intensely investigating" the robberies, York said.
On the morning of Nov. 30, a female employee approaching a ProFed Federal Credit Union branch was ambushed, held at gunpoint by a man dressed in black. A short time later, she and two female co-workers sat on the floor of the bank, hands and ankles bound, as three men bagged cash and fired shots inside the building before running out the door.
Although the employees did not suffer any major injuries, police cited the ProFed robbery as one of the most violent of this year's financial institution robberies.
In most cases, a rash of robberies results from some such variables as a criminal being released from prison or moving to the area, gang activities or individuals moving on to other crimes, said Jim Rechel, a former FBI agent who now serves as a financial security consultant for the Indiana Bankers Association.
"Why do certain cities have outbreaks and others don't see any? Because it's not necessarily the city, but maybe it's the person who started the flu-like trend -- someone who happened to visit Fort Wayne instead of Indianapolis," he said.
Information from: The Journal Gazette, http://www.journalgazette.net