Salt Lake County sees 200 percent increase in bank robberies

Posted at 6:19 PM, Dec 31, 2014

SALT LAKE COUNTY -- Despite a decrease of violent crimes nationwide, Utah hit a record number of bank robberies this year--with the majority of them happening in Salt Lake County.

"It's a little disturbing because it is a dangerous crime," said Det. Greg Wilking of the Salt Lake City Police Department. "You're talking about people that may be armed and are desperate to get money."

This year, police reported a total of 82 bank robberies in Salt Lake County alone. According to the FBI, that's a 200 percent jump since 2013. Matt Evans with the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, spoke about the jump.

"It started last year," he said. "We had average between 20-30, then all of the sudden last year we jumped up to 72, which brought us up to that 200 percent."

Detectives said a majority of the suspects are targeting banks to get quick money for one thing.

"Overwhelmingly, the answer is always drug addiction, needing the money to buy more drugs--over 90 percent of the time," Evans said.

According to police, it's for one drug in particular.

"People are looking for heroin," Wilking said. "It's in demand all the time, and they're willing to rob people in order to get money for heroin."

But even with the uptick of robberies, police said they’ve been able to put 66 percent of the bank robbers behind bars this year.

“If you rob a bank, you're probably going to get caught," Wilking said.

A task force comprised of the FBI, Salt Lake City Police Department, and other agencies is hoping the number of robberies drops with the new year.

"We're hoping the bank robberies will go down, we're hoping we make a dent in the drug trade,” Wilking said.

Police said they can catch more robbers with the help of the public. They said if you witness a robbery, don't get involved. Just take mental notes, and share those with police.