A story of life in the hood

Before going home Thursday I punched out this lead for a column: What's in a name? Plenty, if you're a bank robber.

Take the "Hoody Bandit." Suspected of robbing five banks in Oregon since October, she's described as "white or Hispanic, in her 20s, about 5-foot-6 with a heavy build and brown hair."

That fits half of all young women in Oregon. But what follows is even more universal: The robber wore a hooded sweatshirt.

That's useless because all bank robbers wear hooded sweatshirts. I think they have a rule or something. ...

So Friday morning at breakfast I brought the paper in and saw this headline on the front of the local section:

Hooded burglar runs wild in some southwest Medford neighborhoods.

Ha! I whooped and thumped the paper until my wife pointed out that I wouldn't feel so smart if I slipped on the banana peel I knocked to the kitchen floor during my celebration dance.

So Friday morning at work I came across a story on the robbery of a Liberty Bank branch in Grants Pass a week or so ago. The robber fled on foot (as they do) with an undisclosed amount of cash (just what they always flee with). He's described as 5-feet-8 with reddish brown hair, a moustache, a soul patch, bad teeth, and wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Well I was delighted.

It turns out bandits' monikers are made up by FBI guys to spark media and public interest. They may have had to settle on the "Hoody Bandit" because everything else about her was so generic.

But that "hooded burglar," he could have been the "Soul Patch Burglar" or the "Snaggle-tooth Burglar."

Remember the "Zombie Bandit"? A suspect in the Dec. 30 robbery of a Medford bank, he was busted by a Wyoming State Police trooper Jan. 8. If he didn't have that catchy nickname, would he have wound up on Page One? With a photo?

And the FBI just caught the "Waddling Bandit," a man believed to have done as many as 20 bank jobs in Washington and Oregon, including one in Medford.

These guys just keep coming. The "Can You Hear Me Now Bandit" robbed 11 Seattle banks while talking on his cell phone. The "Grumpy Bandit" was grouchy with bank tellers. The "Hallmark Bandit" asked his victims how their holidays were. The "Brokeback Bandit" wore a cowboy hat like Heath Ledger (the FBI issued a statement saying they weren't speculating on his sexual orientation).

One of my faves is the "Harry Caray Bandit," who robbed banks dressed as a much-loved sports announcer. The "Hardhat Bandit" wore just that. The "Goofy Hat Bandit" wore a black fedora. The "Clown Bandit" wore a mask with a red wig and nose.

You can bet some of these guys also wore hood sweatshirts, as their profession requires, but the feds went with the telling details.

It's not easy being a pioneering criminologist, but I foresee the day when the monthly meeting of the Amalgamated Brotherhood of Crooks Local 239 goes like this:

LEFTY: Snake, word on da street is ya pulled a job without ya hooded sweatshirt.

SNAKE: It was in the laundry! I needed the money! I swear it won't happen again!

LEFTY: Whataya think, boys?

ALL: Just don't let it happen again. Yeah. We got a image to uphold, etc., etc.

And we'll this on TV news:

ANCHOR: Is there a description of the robber, Biff?

REPORTER: Yes, Jennifer. He's a 7-foot white man in a clown suit on a unicycle and — whoa! this is different — a sweatshirt without a hood.

ANCHOR: No hood?


ANCHOR: Ohmygod!

Reach reporter Bill Varble at 776-4478 or e-mail bvarble@mailtribune.com.

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