Heroin Fuels Spike in Salt Lake City Bank Robberies

By Bryan Le 09/03/14

Police say a whopping 90% of robberies in the last 18 months were heroin-related.


Salt Lake City Police are blaming the heroin epidemic for a sudden spike in bank robberies that started last year. According to their numbers, more than 90% of the 45 robberies that took place in the last 18 months— more robberies than the city saw in the past four years combined—were heroin-related.

"We've seen people, individuals who've been arrested for committing violent crimes in other locations in the United States who then come here and commit the same types of crimes in Salt Lake City in order to feed this heroin addiction," said police chief Chris Burbank. "This is a problem we have somewhat created in cracking down on prescription opiate medications."

Heroin addicts usually start off with "safer" prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, which cost about $60 to $80 a pill. But after prescriptions expire or the pill habit starts becoming too expensive, addicts will turn to the cheaper and more highly effective opiate heroin.

"More people are using it. More people are buying it. Therefore, they're more desperate. Heroin is a desperate user's drug," said Salt Lake police detective Matt Evans, adding that it isn't uncommon for heroin addicts to spend $1,000 to $5,000 a month on heroin. Bank robbing can provide the cash flow addicts need, and police say that most addict robbers will hit banks, buy heroin, pass out, and then wake up before repeating the cycle again.

FBI special agent Adam Quirk said there is no typical profile of a heroin-addicted bank robber. They can be in their 20s or 50s, be repeat offenders or have no criminal record at all, and are professionals or students of all races.

Most of these robberies are "note robberies," where the offender simply passes the teller a note demanding the money and leaves with cash. Though the robbery itself can seem simple and overly effective, police say that they arrest 90% of all the bank robbers afterward.

"It’s the most cleared violent crime there is," Quirk said. "If you rob a bank, you're going to get caught."

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter