SALT LAKE CITY — Chris Burbank is worried about the "alarming" number of bank robberies that have occurred in the Salt Lake Valley recently.
That's why the Salt Lake police chief hosted a Bank Safety Summit Tuesday.
There have been at least 22 bank robberies in Salt Lake County since the beginning of the year. If that rate continues, there could be more than 130 by the end of the year.
During all of 2013, there were 70 bank robberies in the Salt Lake area, and just 26 during 2012.
"This is an alarming trend that is occurring," Burbank told the 25 law enforcers and approximately 60 bank representatives who registered to attend the summit.
Burbank said the goal of the summit was to examine whether there was something special about the Salt Lake area that is attracting robbers by looking at the practices and vulnerabilities of area banks.
Historically, there is no specific profile on the common bank robbing suspect, according to the FBI. But Burbank noted that in the majority of cases, the robber is trying to sustain a drug habit.
"This is much more than just a crime problem. It is really an underlying social problem that exists in society. What are we doing to deal with those individuals that are addicted? We have incarcerated people with addiction problems for years and years in this country and it certainly has not solved or reduced their addiction to drugs," he said.
Howard Headlee, president of the Utah Bankers Association, believes it's part of the cycle of new criminals who haven't yet learned that nearly all bank robbery cases end with an arrest.
"When you rob a bank, the only thing you get is jail time," he said.
"The odds of you getting away with this crime are slim to none," concurred Burbank, who said the rate of bank robbery crimes that are solved is very high.
But while the odds of a bank robber getting away were slim, Bubank said prevention is still the better tool in the long run.
He hopes that by getting the word out that bank robbery comes with hefty penalties in federal court, it will deter other potential robbers from attempting similar crimes.
Just as the Bank Safety Summit was going on, the U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday announced that Daniel Joseph Carlton, 66, of Salt Lake City, has been charged federally with a credit union robbery on Jan. 10 at TransWest Credit Union, 39 W. 2100 South. If convicted, Carlton faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Carlton was previously convicted of robbing two banks.
Federal prosecutors also noted that James Pearson Thain is in custody in Wyoming for allegedly robbing a Bank of the West in Casper on Jan. 29 along with a female acquaintance, Mindy Lawrence. The U.S. Attorney's Office suspects he is responsible for 11 robberies in Utah dating back to last year.
When Thain was arrested, police found a gun in his vehicle, which Thain said was for “cops, heroes and tellers," according to a federal complaint. Thain wore a fake moustache, large glasses, and a beanie hat during the Wyoming robbery, according to prosecutors. That investigation was still ongoing Tuesday.