Canada bank group offers reward to halt robberies

Thu Oct 2, 2008 1:31pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian Bankers Association is offering a C$10,000 ($9,260) reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a man Toronto police have dubbed the "Exchange Bandit".

Police suspect that one man has robbed more than 26 financial institutions in Ontario since 2003, and released several photos of the suspect on Thursday, asking the public for help in identifying him.

Bill Crate, director of security for the Canadian Bankers Association, said that it is rare for the industry group to offer such a reward because Canadian police generally have a good record of arresting suspects. The CBA did so in this case to try to keep customers and staff safe, he said.

Police in Toronto, Canada's most populous city, say the robberies started in 2003 and continued in southwestern Ontario cities the following year. No robberies in 2005 or 2006 matched the suspect's description or pattern, but they started again in 2007.

The latest occurred on September 12, at a downtown Toronto branch in Bank of Nova Scotia's head office building, according to police, who did not disclose how much money has been taken in the string of holdups.

Vancouver, British Columbia, remains Canada's bank-robbery capital, although rates in the West Coast city started coming down last spring after police took a more concentrated approach to holdups in certain areas, Crate said.

Vancouver used to have roughly one bank robbery a day, but that rate is now down to about one a week, Crate said.

($1=$1.08 Canadian)

(Reporting by Lynne Olver; Editing by Peter Galloway)