This is much more than just a crime problem. It is really an underlying social problem that exists in society. What are we doing to deal with those individuals that are addicted? We have incarcerated people with addiction problems for years and years in this country and it certainly has not solved or reduced their addiction to drugs. —Chris Burbank, Salt Lake police chief
SALT LAKE CITY — On the same day Salt Lake City police gathered area bankers to talk about safety, investigators took a suspected serial robber into custody.
Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said he is worried about the number of bank robberies that have occurred in the Salt Lake Valley recently.
"This is an alarming trend that is occurring," Burbank told the 25 law enforcers and approximately 60 bank representatives who registered to attend Tuesday's Bank Safety Summit organized by the Salt Lake City Police Department.
There have been at least 22 bank robberies in Salt Lake County since the beginning of the year. If that rate continues, there could be more than 130 by the end of the year.
During all of 2013, there were 70 bank robberies in the Salt Lake area, and just 26 in 2012.
Burbank said the goal of the summit was to examine whether there is something special about the Salt Lake area that is attracting robbers by looking at the practices and vulnerabilities of area banks.
Historically, there is no specific profile on the common bank robbing suspect, according to the FBI. But Burbank noted that in the majority of cases, the robber is trying to sustain a drug habit.
"This is much more than just a crime problem. It is really an underlying social problem that exists in society. What are we doing to deal with those individuals that are addicted? We have incarcerated people with addiction problems for years and years in this country, and it certainly has not solved or reduced their addiction to drugs," he said.
Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association, said he believes it's part of the cycle of new criminals who haven't yet learned that nearly all bank robbery cases end with an arrest.
"When you rob a bank, the only thing you get is jail time," Headlee said.
"The odds of you getting away with this crime are slim to none," concurred Burbank, who said the rate of bank robbery crimes that are solved is very high.
Just a few hours after making that declaration, Burbank's detectives arrested Kevin Richard Minix, 37, for investigation of bank robberies on Feb. 7, Feb. 13 and Feb. 20 in Salt Lake County.
Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Robin Heiden said Minix's aggression had been escalating with each robbery, progressing from threatening to have a gun at the first incident to actually pointing one at tellers by the third robbery.
Minix was arrested after a convenience store clerk noticed a man who appeared to be intoxicated getting in and out of a vehicle near 1700 South and 300 West, Heiden said. When officers arrived at the scene, they recognized the man and his Subaru as being similar to those at a recent bank robbery.
Detectives recovered drugs when making their arrest, Heiden said. It was not immediately known whether there was a gun in the vehicle, she said.
According to court records, Minix pleaded guilty to several separate drug possession cases in 2006, but later had the convictions dismissed after successfully completing drug court.
But while the odds of a bank robber getting away are slim, Burbank said, prevention is still the better tool in the long run.
The police chief said he hopes getting the word out that bank robbery comes with hefty penalties in federal court will deter potential robbers from attempting similar crimes.
The U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday announced that Daniel Joseph Carlton, 66, of Salt Lake City, has been charged in federal court with a robbery on Jan. 10 at TransWest Credit Union, 39 W. 2100 South. If convicted, Carlton faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was previously convicted of robbing two banks.
Federal prosecutors also noted that James Pearson Thain, 38, is in custody in Wyoming for allegedly robbing a Bank of the West in Casper on Jan. 29 along with a female acquaintance, Mindy Lawrence. The U.S. Attorney's Office suspects Thain is responsible for 11 robberies in Utah dating back to last year.
When Thain was arrested, police found a gun in his vehicle that Thain said was for “cops, heroes and tellers," according to a federal complaint. Thain wore a fake moustache, large glasses and a beanie during the Wyoming robbery, according to prosecutors. That investigation was still ongoing Tuesday.