Highway Heist: Bank Robbers along Interstate 10

Highway Heist: Bank Robbers along Interstate 10


Palm Springs, CA

Bank robbers attract a lot of attention.

Maybe it’s the quick cash, the notorious bandits or their escape and capture.

Every good getaway needs a route, and there happens to be one right here in the Coachella Valley.

The I-15 has been called the "Fugitive Freeway," but Interstate 10 running right through the valley is also known for being a route robbers use for a highway heist.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation oversees all bank robberies since the 1930s.

Bandits are always looking for a getaway, and the Ten Freeway is a frequently used escape route.

"The 10 is a corridor for bank robberies, there’s a bank robberies that happen in LA off the 10 and also off the 10 in Riverside county."

FBI Special Agent Stephen J. May tells us why it’s an attractive highway for robbers.

"Obviously you go east you work your way out to the 15 Las Vegas, go out that way, you can drive out to Phoenix in the other direction, and if you were based out of Los Angeles in the old days the old gangs would just take it west and drive back out to Los Angeles."

Let’s take a look at some of the robbers on the run in Riverside County this year.

FBI agents say in may a man walked into a Citibank in Beaumont.

The teller said he may have been deaf.

The man passed a note that read, "I’m deaf. I have a bomb. Give me a bag of 100s. No police or we all die."

A brazen robbery in Indio on May 26th when a man in camouflage pointed a gun at a teller.

The images show him walking away with a cash tray from the California bank and trust.

Notes are popular a man in his 50s or 60s with white hair and a beard passed one at a Pacific Western Bank in Corona, June 20th.

"The irreconcilable differences bandit, the paparazzi bandit, and the one one we’ve had recently, the Mum’s the Word bandit."

Another ingredient we’ve come to expect in bank robberies is cool moniker.

So who picks the names?

"I’m the man who picks them, and I always get a hard time for doing this…." said Special Agent May.

You basically have to rob two banks to get a name, and the handles are based off witness descriptions or what the note reads.

"The one I kind of got a little grief for was a woman who robbed a bank a few years ago, and we named her the Plain Jane Bandit, and I didn’t realize at the time that Plain Jane is not necessarily complimentary name."

The FBI gave us this map which shows most of the bank robberies in the Coachella Valley, And throughout riverside County since 2012.

"In the old days it wouldn’t be unheard of if a guy robbed 30 banks, now if a guy robs ten banks I’m like wow, he’s really up there now," said May.

Robberies are trending downward since 2012 with a peak of 60.

There are less each year, and there have only been five in the Coachella Valley since 2016.

Here are a couple reasons for that according to Special Agent May,

"We’re not seeing as many gang takeover robberies occurring in Riverside County, they’re doing other things like home invasion robberies…. banks are getting better security measures, their cameras are digital, we’re getting images immediately as we respond to banks."

Besides, FBI agents are hot on the robbers heels.

"Sooner or later, the old adage is they just need to make one mistake and then they’re done."

That mistake is costly.

In California, if you use a gun in a bank robbery and commit two of them you’re facing at least 32 years behind bars.