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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Denver-area street gangs have gotten into the bank-robbery business

08:39 |

Denver-area street gangs have gotten into the bank-robbery business, helping fuel a surge in heists in the metro area this year.

As of Friday, the Denver area recorded 80 bank robberies in 2011, compared with 64 at this time in 2010, according to FBI spokesman Dave Joly. Denver now ranks second nationwide only to Seattle in bank robberies per capita.

The 25 percent increase has included more violent, takeover-style robberies and more robberies linked to local gangs, Joly said.

The Safe Streets Task Force, a joint effort of local, state and federal law enforcement, is working with the Metro Gang Task Force to address the new threat.

In some cases, it appears bank robberies have become a kind of "rite of passage" for prospective gang members, Joly said.

As crimes go, it's a poor choice. About 85 percent of bank robberies committed in the Denver area since 2007 have been solved, according to the FBI. The culprits can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison per offense — longer if it's an armed robbery.

In one recent Denver case, a repeat offender was sentenced to 146 years in prison. And because it's a federal crime, bank-robbery convicts must serve 85 percent of their prison terms.

"Robbing a bank is a very high-risk, low-reward crime," said FBI Special Agent in Charge James Yacone.

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