Originally created 08/04/98

Bank robberies down in Upstate



GREENVILLE, S.C. -- For now, South Carolina's bank robbers seem to have shifted their targets to the Lowcountry and the Midlands.

Upstate banks, hit a record 42 times by this time last year, have had just 14 robberies so far this year, the most recent one on Friday, the FBI's Columbia office said Monday.

The Midlands and the Lowcountry have had 16 robberies each, with seven in the Florence area, six in the Rock Hill area and one in Aiken.

The total of 60 is about even with the same time last year, said Mike Duke, who heads the FBI's violent crime unit in the state.

Pinpointing the shift is difficult, he said. One thing is clear -- robbers have become more mobile.

"We had a guy rob a bank in Columbia, and he's robbed 20 since in other places. He just moves around," Agent Duke said. "The interstate makes it easier for them to go to North Carolina or Georgia."

Arrests were made in 70 of South Carolina's 130 bank robberies last year, or about 53 percent, Agent Duke said. The national average is 55 percent.

One arrest also can put an end to a string of robberies. For example, two arrests made in Charleston recently will solve at least six robberies, Agent Duke said.

The average bank robber gets about $2,000 per heist in South Carolina, he said. But a conviction can carry as long as 25 years in federal prison.

"For most bank robbers, their luck runs out," Agent Duke said. "We don't drop the case. We work it indefinitely until we solve it."