Bank robber this time is an average Joe

A middle-aged, balding male with dark-rimmed glasses standing about 5 feet 9 inches and weighing about 200 pounds walked into the Suntrust Bank in the 5700 block of 14th Street West and walked away with nearly $350 after he slid the teller a note demanding money, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’ve had every type of bank robbery this year. We’ve had a female. We’ve had four armed men. We’ve had a GQ guy dressed up in a suit. Now we’ve had a average-looking, balding guy. They come in all shapes and sizes, it seems,” said Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dave Bristow, reflecting on this year’s bank robbers.

The Suntrust robbery is the ninth bank robbery in Manatee County this year.

The man robbed the bank at about 2:10 p.m. Thursday and implied he had a weapon, according to officials.

It’s also the second bank robbery in a week.

The M&I Bank in the 6800 block of 15th Street East was robbed at about 9:30 a.m. Monday when four men armed with a variety of firearms burst into the bank with their shirts pulled up over their faces. They left the scene in a stolen 1990s red, four-door Buick that deputies later found abandoned near a Dumpster with the engine running.

Bristow said it’s unclear why there have been so many bank robberies lately.

“I just think it’s the ebb and flow. Last summer we had an increase in bank robberies. By the end of the year we didn’t have any. By the end of the year, we ended up being down in violent crimes. We’ll have to see if they continue at this pace,” he said.

In 2007, there were 15 bank robberies in Manatee County. In 2008, the number of bank robberies doubled to 30. “We’ve got some pretty good leads on this guy just from information gathered at the scene,” Bristow said.

Authorities said the man headed south after robbing the bank. They did not release a vehicle description.

The most common method of robbing a bank is sliding a note. That’s 56 percent — 764 cases out of 1,358 total cases nationwide — from July to September 2008, according to FBI statistics.

Bank robbers used firearms 28 percent of the time, or in 378 cases, according to the FBI data. ---- Anyone with any information on Thursday’s robbery can contact Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Dennis Sanders at 747-3011 ext. 2552.

Anyone with any information on Monday’s robbery can contact Detective Rick Alvarado at 747-3011 ext. 2513. To remain anonymous call Crimestoppers at (866) 634-TIPS (8477). ---- Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter, can be reached at 708-7919.