Staying Close to the Streets Robbery Detectives Proud of Success

Article excerpt

A picture of a robbery suspect is clipped to the sun visor in

the car that has become a traveling office for two Jacksonville

robbery detectives.

He was one of the men most wanted by these partners of two

years. They think he hit four banks in April.

"If you see him walking down the street, start yelling,"

detective Larry Kuczkowski told his passengers.

On April 30, police said, the man robbed the 14th bank this

year in Jacksonville -- one more than the number of heists

committed last year during the first four months.

Within three days, Timothy Hampton, 37, of the 1600 block of

West 45th Street, was arrested in Georgia on two Jacksonville

warrants for bank robbery. He is being held in a Claxton, Ga.,

jail, refusing to waive extradition. It could take a month to

bring him back to Jacksonville.

He is still a suspect in two other robberies, and once they

charge the man, the robbery unit will have closed its

investigations of 12 of this year's bank robberies.

The robbery unit has a track record of catching most bank

robbers -- one reason the detectives take pride in their work.

The numbers back up their confidence. Last year, they solved 22

of 26. In 1996, they solved 41 of 51 and in 1994, the unit

closed 17 of 25 bank robbery cases.

Lt. Lonnie McDonald, who heads the robbery unit, said the

department's success rate falls on the shoulders of the

investigators.

"They do a great job," he said, adding they go above just

catching a suspect in a robbery. "They have made it a point to

arrest everyone who is involved."

Detectives rely on confidential informants when a bank is

robbed, McDonald said. They also work with the FBI.

Knowing what makes robbers tick is also crucial to solving

cases. Robbers tend to start off small -- breaking into houses

and businesses -- and eventually graduate to robbing people and

then banks.

They're career criminals by the time they have reached banks,

said detective John Zipperer, Kuczkowski's partner. But a new

trend has detectives disturbed -- robbers are getting younger,

dropping the average age to 18 or 19.

Of the 766 people arrested in 1997 for robbery, 220 were

juveniles -- nearly 29 percent. In 1996, 39 percent of 344

arrests were juveniles and a year before, 42 percent of 342

arrested for robbery were juveniles. …