Hawaii bank hold-ups surge
• Photo gallery: Central Pacific is 7th bank robbed in 3 weeks
By Mary Vorsino
Advertiser Urban Honolulu Writer
The robbery of a Central Pacific Bank branch in Makiki yesterday makes the seventh bank heist of the year, nearly double the number reported at the same time last year.
All of the crimes occurred in a span of less than three weeks, and police said it's not clear whether the culprit in yesterday's robbery is linked to any of the other hold-ups.
The Makiki robber was described as a man in his 40s wearing a surgical mask and baseball cap, matching witness accounts in several of the other recent cases.
The robber escaped on foot and was at large last night.
Police say the seven bank robberies so far this year on O'ahu compare with four in the first two months of 2009. In all of last year, there were 16 bank robberies, compared with 17 in 2008.
The uptick in bank robberies comes as police are eyeing an apparent increase in crimes after a long period of decline, and on the heels of warnings the economic crisis could trigger crime waves.
FBI figures released in December showed crime on O'ahu rose nearly 6 percent in the first half of last year, with thefts, robberies and other property crimes accounting for much of the increase.
Honolulu police statistics show the number of bank robberies has fluctuated greatly over the past several years. A five-year high of 47 was recorded in 2006, while 2007 saw a five-year low, 14.
Police would not comment on whether they believe the economic downturn is pushing up the number of bank robberies this year.
Authorities also have not said how many robbers they think are involved in the seven heists, though they have linked three of the robberies to one man ó 49-year-old Ronald Manning, who was arrested last month.
Witness descriptions of yesterday's robber wearing a surgical mask and hat match descriptions in three heists that occurred last month at the First Hawaiian Bank branch on Ward Avenue.
But police yesterday couldn't say if they were dealing with one robber in all four hold-ups because they couldn't rule out the possibility of one or more copycats.
All but one of the bank robberies this year have happened in Honolulu's urban core. The robbery in Makiki occurred at about 9:25 a.m. at 1338 S. Beretania St., and police were in the area for hours looking for a suspect.