(KTLA) — Police are warning the public amid a spike in violent “bank jugging” robberies across Southern California as the holidays approach.
“Bank jugging” involves thieves staking out potential victims in bank parking lots and then following them to their next destination to rob them.
Popular shopping centers are prime areas for suspects searching for their next target, police said.
“These are dangerous crimes,” Lt. Derek Green with the Burbank Police Department told NewsNation affiliate KTLA. “The crime is usually when a group of people follow unsuspecting victims to a bank and wait for them to withdraw a large amount of cash. Once the victim leaves the bank, they follow them to their intended destination.”
Police say this type of organized robbery is nothing new.
“You usually have somebody driving a vehicle,” explained Green. “Oftentimes, you have somebody that’s actually inside the bank posing as a customer themselves and they’re in communication with each other, so they’re keeping close eyes on their victims.”
Surveillance video captured a bank jugging incident in Los Angeles’ Sherman Oaks neighborhood this past July.
A customer is seen walking out of a Wells Fargo bank with a bag containing $10,000 in cash. Two suspects — a gunman and a getaway driver — had pulled into the parking lot, awaiting his exit.
As the victim walks to his car, a suspect is seen running toward the victim and confronting him with a handgun.
The victim runs and hops over a small concrete wall before falling down and tossing the money in the air. The suspect is seen scooping up the cash before running off.
Police say these types of violent robberies — both bank jugging and follow-home robberies — are becoming increasingly common.
“I don’t take my entire wallet or my purse with me,” said Hilda Avanessian. “I just take my small credit card and put it in my pocket and walk into the bank and walk out. I’m afraid because I don’t know who is coming from behind.”
Customers seen purchasing luxury handbags and jewelry or people who own jewelry businesses are also being targeted and followed home, police said.
“We just need to be aware of our surroundings at all times,” advised Green. “If there’s something that doesn’t look right, it probably isn’t. Trust your instincts, get ahold of the police, and if you think you’re being followed, drive to your nearest police station or place of safety.”
Tips to avoid being targeted after visiting the bank include concealing bank slip envelopes inside a bag when exiting the bank and taking any valuables with you inside your next destination instead of leaving or hiding them in the car.