Originally created 05/17/03

Police get little help in some robberies



One wore sunglasses and a black false beard. Another reportedly wrote his robbery plans in a day planner so only the bank clerk could see.

Then there was the man who police say demanded money with a note after pretending he had a bank account problem.

All belong in the file of unsolved bank robberies in the Augusta area.

Since January 2001, police say there have been eight area bank robberies that have gone unsolved - four in Richmond County, three in Columbia County and one in Aiken County.

They are cases in which police have few leads other than a grainy surveillance video and an eyewitness account.

"The cases are open, but once we exhaust all the leads, there's really nowhere else for us to go, unless we get something from the FBI or the public," said Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry.

Nationwide, bank robberies are on the rise in large cities, with a 35 percent increase in Atlanta this year, according to the FBI. In Richmond County, bank robberies increased from three to five in 2002, and there have been three this year.

Maj. Autry said one problem is "the majority" of local banks haven't spent money on armed guards to serve as a deterrent.

In Richmond County's unsolved cases, Maj. Autry said, all leads have been followed up. The robberies happened at the Wachovia bank on Walton Way Extension on March 14; the SunTrust bank on Washington Road on Jan. 2; the Regions Bank on Broad Street on Dec. 26; and the First Union bank on Washington Road on April 11, 2002.

Seven of Richmond County's 11 bank robberies since 2001 have been solved.

"We actually solve most of ours," Maj. Autry said. "Most of them open are ones that we just don't know who they are."