Bank Robberies More Frequent in 2006

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Police rushed to Downtown Honolulu Monday morning to investigate yet another bank heist. Robbery detectives say the number of holdups is way ahead of last year's pace.

Officers arrested a man in connection with Monday's robbery at First Hawaiian Bank on Bishop Street. But police are still looking for suspects in several other holdups.

A bank surrounded by police cars. It has become such a common sight that people driving by don't even bother to gawk.

"Yeah, we have seen a spike in recent months with some bank robberies," Tony Lang, Federal Bureau of Investigation, said. "And as opposed to some trends on the mainland, we think it's more driven by crystal meth and drug money."

The latest holdup happened at the First Hawaiian Bank on Bishop Street at about 9:30 a.m. Apparently, the robber wasn't thrilled with the amount of cash he received. Investigators say the suspect asked for more, even agreed to wait, and was nabbed by security guards.

"Most bank robbery cases are solved," Lang said. "They are reported, and Honolulu P.D. has almost a hundred percent conviction rate."

This is the 22nd bank heist on Oahu this year. At this time last year, there were five.

"People realize, you know, if they're successful in robbing one bank, they'll come out and do another one," Lang said. "And then that hits the press, and they say if they can do it, I can do it. So we are seeing, like some months, we'll see no bank robberies. And a couple months, in one month, we might see eight or nine."

And even though Honolulu police handle the investigations, those convicted face federal penalties.

"If you brandish any type of weapon -- gun, knives -- that increases the penalties even more where you're looking at five, 10, 15, 20 years prison time with no parole," Lang said.

The suspect in Monday's holdup, 52-year-old William Barca, was booked on suspicion of second-degree robbery. He's currently locked up at the main police cellblock.