Lincolnville bank robberies illustrate national increase

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
As of Monday, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation was still searching for the man who robbed the Pilsen State Bank in Lincolnville at gunpoint last Wednesday.

The robbery, which occurred at 10:05 a.m., was the second at the Lincolnville bank in the past six months. The first one, which occured Oct. 12, was carried out by two armed suspects who have not been apprehended.

The single suspect in the recent robbery escaped with an undisclosed amount of money, and no one was injured during the incident.

The following description of the recent robbery suspect was given: a Caucasian male between the ages of 30 to 40, 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 11 inches tall, 150 to 180 pounds, short hair, wearing a red stocking hat and a green hooded jacket.

Bill Seck, supervisor for Wichita’s FBI office, said a description was given of the get-a-way car.

“A witness said they saw a four-door white vehicle, possibly a Saturn, at this particular robbery,” Seck said.

Responding to the crime scene were the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Marion Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Wildlife and Parks, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and the FBI.

Seck said bank robberies in small towns are increasing. In a little more than a year, about seven banks have been robbed in towns with a population of less than 1,400 residents. And six of those robberies took place in towns of less than 800 residents.

After two robberies in less than three months, officials recently announced the closing of Alden State Bank in Plevna.

That bank was robbed on Dec. 6 and Feb. 26, according to Seck.

These robberies in Kansas have attracted a lot of media attention locally and nationally, Seck said.

On March 21, the day the Lincolnville bank was hit, the Wichita Eagle ran an article that stated “small-town banks are becoming popular with armed robbers, and their limited budgets make a lot of security difficult.”

The Lincolnville incident also made the March 24 issue of the New York Times, which ran an article about “robbers rediscovering the small-town banks” in Kansas and nationwide.

“While bank robberies over all rose 17 percent from 1995 to 2001, FBI statistics show they jumped 82 percent over the same period in small towns and 27 percent in unincorporated rural areas,” the Times reported.

“Nearly a third of the nation’s 8,259 bank robberies last year were in small towns, up from less than one in five, six years ago.”

Asked if the robberies in Lincolnville and Plevna were connected, Seck said: “We’re certainly looking at that possibility. It’s not uncommon at all for an individual to rob one or more or the same bank or three or four in a row. But definitively yet, we’ve not made that statement.”

Seck said it’s hard to determine why robbers would repeatedly rob the same bank or several within a certain geographic area.

“And we try to make common-sense judgments at some point, (such as) whether they live near the town or whether they’re from out of town.

“There’s a lot of investigative things we can do to help us narrow those kinds of things down, but it’s really too soon to tell in this particular case.”

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the KBI are continuing to follow all leads in the case.

“We’re reviewing the evidence and the facts of the case,” Seck said. “But we’ve not made an arrest and are proceeding along the normal lines of the investigation right now.”

Anyone who has information should call the Marion County Sheriff’s Office at 620-382-2144 or the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME (1-800-572-7463).

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