While the local law enforcement agencies have reported fewer and fewer robberies in recent years, the number of bank robberies has fluctuated dramatically.

The graphic above illustrates San Diego’s rollercoaster ride with bank robbers, according to statistics from the local FBI. The annual totals include robberies in San Diego and Imperial Counties, but the FBI says the vast majority happened in San Diego each year.

After three steady years, bank robberies plummeted by 39 percent in 2009, shot up by 66 percent in 2010 and then fell by 44 percent last year. Over the six-year period, robberies dropped by 35 percent.

When bank robberies climbed in 2010, FBI officials attributed the shift to more activity by serial robbers like the high-profile “Geezer Bandit.” When robberies fell last year, they credited a local task force and more public outreach.

“We’re very, very pleased with those numbers,” FBI spokesman Darrell Foxworth told 10News in February this year.

Local law enforcement agencies report thousands of robberies across the county each year, but the tiny pool of bank robberies tend to get more public attention. Investigators normally release footage or pictures of the suspect, and often create goofy nicknames to describe their characteristics.

In January, Randy Dotinga interviewed a local FBI agent about nicknaming bank robbers and what people should do during a bank robbery. Here’s one excerpt from the Q&A:

Is there a typical bank robber?

People rob banks for different reasons, but a lot of the time you have drug addicts and gambling addicts, people who can’t get out of their situation financially. You really learn what being an addict will drive people to do, reasonable people.

Has the economy affected bank robberies much?

We have had some who have stated that it was the only thing they could do because they were about to lose their house. They thought that this was a viable option.

San Diego County Crime Stoppers also maintains a website full of pictures and descriptions of suspected bank robbers. Providing information that leads to an arrest may qualify you for a cash reward. Tipping off the Geezer Bandit, for example, could net you $20,000.

Keegan Kyle is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. He writes about local government, creates infographics and handles the Fact Check Blog. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at keegan.kyle@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5668. You can also find him on Twitter (@keegankyle) and Facebook.

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