Heroin addiction fueling uptick in S.L. bank robberies, police say

By Dennis Romboy, Deseret News

Published: Tue, Sept. 2, 2014, 3:55 p.m. MDT

 Salt Lake City Police Officers investigate a robbery Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Brighton Bank at 1402 south 300 west.

Salt Lake City Police Officers investigate a robbery Monday, Dec. 30, 2013 at Brighton Bank at 1402 south 300 west.

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Police attribute a dramatic uptick in bank robberies in the Salt Lake Valley to a heroin epidemic.

More than 90 percent of the robberies are related to the cheap, highly addictive drug, Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank said.

The 45 bank robberies, including 16 this year, committed in the city the past 18 months exceed the total number for the previous four years combined, according to Salt Lake police.

"We've seen people, individuals who've been arrested for committing violent crimes in other locations in the United States who then come here and commit the same types of crimes in Salt Lake City in order to feed this heroin addiction," the chief said.

Burbank and members of the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force talked about the issue Tuesday as more than 200 law enforcement officers gather this week for the annual Salt Lake Violent Crimes Conference. It will address crimes such as murder, sexual assaults, bombings and robbery.

"This is a problem we have somewhat created in cracking down on prescription opiate medications," he said.

Heroin habits often start with an addiction to a painkiller such as Oxycontin, which runs $60 to $80 a pill on the street. Addicts turn to $10 or $20 balloons of heroin when prescriptions expire or when the pills become too expensive.

Police say they're seeing closer ties to Mexican drug cartels that are pushing heroin on the Wasatch Front because profit margins are big.

"More people are using it. More people are buying it. Therefore, they're more desperate. Heroin is a desperate user's drug," said Salt Lake police detective Matt Evans. He said it's not uncommon for addicts to spend $1,000 to $5,000 a month on heroin.

Addicts see banks as quick, easy money. Evans said most of the robbers police have interviewed hit a bank, buy heroin, go home and black out, and do it all over again.

FBI special agent Adam Quirk said there is no profile or set of traits that make up a heroin-addicted bank robber. Some are in their 20s, some in their 50s. Some have never been arrested, while others are repeat offenders. They are students and professionals and people of all races, he said.

Quirk said most bank robberies are "note jobs," meaning the robber gives the teller a note demanding money. But, he said, they're still considered violent crimes.

Though bank robberies are prevalent, getting away with it apparently is not.

Police also say they arrest about 90 percent of all bank robbers.

"It’s the most cleared violent crime there is," Quirk said. "If you rob a bank, you're going to get caught."

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

1. FatherOfFour
Sept. 2, 2014

Before everyone jumps on the Mexican drug cartels, remember who is buying it. It's not the illegals or the cartels. It's the Americans along the Wasatch front that are the demand side of this problem. We need to take responsibility for ourselves and our own friends and families before we start lashing out at the groups that are supplying the product our own countrymen are buying.

2. I know it. I Live it. I Love it.
Provo, UT,
Sept. 2, 2014


There is nothing irresponsible about lashing out at a drug cartel. Temptation and desire go hand in hand. But desire will always exist. The natural man will always be prone to wander. But the harder you fight and the more you keep things out of your life, the better protected you are.

First, we fortify our homes.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't hold others accountable for bringing things to the door that don't belong.

3. brotherJonathan
Sept. 4, 2014

The only reason drug prices are so high, is because of script powers. That is it. Without that equality violating law, drug prices would be fair market value.
Ask how much it cost to make oxi-codone. and how much do legitimate prescriptions up to $13 per pill........Which mean for addicted citizens they must pay 2-3 times that for one pill.
Imagine you are flying over sunny El Paso, Tx and there on the border is the truth of our broken equality with slavery based drug laws.
90,000 men, women and children all Murdered over our broken equality...
That pile of bodies is our fault..If you doubt my logic...........
If that pile was white Canadians?
Do you think the war on drug would continue?
We are hypocrites and ignore the facts on hand.....
Rule #1 For Democracy: No Law Shall Violate Citizen Equality.
You see I don't believe I need to see a doctor for how to treat my pain. I am a U.S. Citizen and do not have to purchase permits from other citizens who do not hold an office.........
No Office, No Special Powers,
Those are the rules of Equality Under All Laws.