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FBI now posting 'most wanted' bank robbery suspects online

The number of bank robberies reported in both Florida and in the nation as a whole has been reasonably steady for the past few years. According to the FBI, in 2011 there were 214 bank robberies in Florida were reported to the agency, and a total of 5,014 in the U.S. as a whole. Of those 5,014, only about 1,273 -- only about 25 percent -- were considered armed robbery.

In both Florida and nationwide, bank robbery is trending downward. In 2008, Florida reported 355 bank robberies to the FBI, then 243 in 2009 and 243 again in 2010. Nationwide, the FBI received reports of 6,700 bank robberies in 2008, 5,943 in 2009, 5,546 in 2010 and then 5,014 in 2011. The armed robbery numbers also generally declined over the four-year period, with a high of 29 percent in 2009.

Of course, most banks have alarms, surveillance systems and even armed guards, but banks continue to lose money to robbery -- although the amount has also gone down, from a period high of $61,914,663.31 in 2008 to just $38,343,501.96 in 2011.

Nevertheless, these continued losses are likely the reason for the FBI's new website featuring a searchable database to help potential witnesses identify the nation's most wanted suspects. The database is also searchable by state.

While the FBI is primarily responsible for investigations because bank robbery has traditionally been considered a federal offense, the State of Florida occasionally prosecutes armed robbery of banks simply as robbery with a firearm or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Either way, it's a serious felony.

In addition to the massive power of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state or local authorities are often called in to investigate the crime.

For example, a recent story in the Orlando Sentinel reported that the FBI, ATF and the Orange County Sheriff's Office worked together to place a federal informant in the way of a 32-year-old Orlando man in early March -- and it didn't take them long to arrest him. The Orlando man was arrested on March 8, presumably for attempt to commit an armed bank robbery, although at the moment he appears only to be charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.

Whatever the truth of the allegations against the Orlando man, it seems clear that the federal and Florida governments have plenty of resources with which to find these suspects. Considering that instances of the offense are dropping, why do you think they are putting additional resources into the new website?

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