If tough economic times bring about an increase in crime, the crime of choice is apparently not bank robbery.

If tough economic times bring about an increase in crime, the crime of choice is apparently not bank robbery.

This year, in fact, bank robberies in central Ohio are on the decline, slightly, according to the FBI.

Despite rampant layoffs and home foreclosures, the recession has not caused a significant increase in bank robberies simply because most people don't turn to violent crime when facing a financial pinch, FBI special agent Harry W. Trombitas.

"Bank robbers typically have a drug problem, so they're typically unemployable, anyway. Whether times are tough or not, we don't see the increase" in bank robberies, he said. "We don't see people who are normally law-abiding citizens fall off the wagon and start committing crimes.

"If they're desperate, they may shoplift or do more nonviolent type activities, but I don't see the harder economic times causing people to become more violent," Trombitas said. "Not saying that's never the case, but we just don't see it."

Since the beginning of the year, there have been 15 bank robberies in central Ohio, compared to 18 bank robberies this time last year. Data indicates that in general, the number of bank robberies in the region has declined since the 1990s.

The trend seems contrary to logic: it would seem that bank robberies would be on the rise during the worst economic environment since the Great Depression, as compared to the '90s.

"Most people generally considered those to be fairly good economic times," said FBI special agent Harry W. Trombitas, referring to the previous decade.

The most recent bank robbery in Upper Arlington occurred on Dec. 3 at the Fifth Third Bank branch at 2081 Henderson Road. Following the heist, the primary suspect, Corwin D. Head, 30, apparently committed suicide.

In that incident, a tip from another bank customer led police to Head's getaway vehicle, and a chase ensued until Head died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Growing intervention from bystanders is part of the reason why bank robberies have declined in the past decade, Trombitas said.

"Oftentimes, there's rewards for people who turn in robbers," he said. "Most of the time when I talk to people who have turned in a robber, they say their main motivating factor isn't the money, it's that they don't want to see these guys getting away with it."

The decline can also be attributed to increased security at banks and credit unions.

Trombitas said a big factor in catching suspects is "banks and credit unions doing a better job with their security equipment -- getting us better pictures to work with and in a quicker fashion. There's times when I'm getting bank surveillance photos sent to me on my Blackberry. In years past, it would take a week to get bank surveillance photos."

Increased media involvement through programs like CrimeStoppers and Web sites such as the FBI's Publiceyes.org, which display suspects' photos and descriptions, have also assisted law enforcement, Trombitas said.

"We've been putting the pictures up since 2003 (at Publiceyes.org). And there is reward money for anybody who identifies a bank robber," he said. "We would encourage anyone that has an interest in going online and seeing if they recognize anyone."

In addition, he said, the reward is scarcely worth the increased risk.

More criminals may have wised up to the fact that they won't get much money in bank robberies, Trombitas said.

"We try our best to tell them, 'You're not going to get much money in a bank robbery,'" he said. "You get typically less than $3,000. It's usually in the $1,000 to $2,000 range."

Increased security and public awareness may have also alerted would-be bank robbers that that they're less likely to get away.

"We've been catching robbers at a 70 percent rate. You're going to get caught. If you're silly enough to use a gun, you're looking at very serious time," Trombitas said.

"It's not going to solve anybody's problems, if they're robbing banks. They're going to end up in jail and their families are going to suffer. We just don't see people turning to violent crime because of tough economic days."