Local and federal law-enforcement agencies are joining efforts to combat an increase in bank robberies across the Valley.
The Mesa, Phoenix and Scottsdale police departments, as well as the FBI and Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, are among the agencies planning to target the bank robbery suspects with a new task force.
In the organization stages since late last year, the task force hopes to curtail bank robberies and arrest suspects.
From 2007 to 2008, robberies in Maricopa County went up 40 percent, from 128 to 179, according to the FBI.
This year, from Jan. 1 to May 1, there have been 88 bank robberies - double the number from the same time last year.
"(The task force) helps us to utilize officers who represent Mesa and Scottsdale. Right now, we're on track to get 250 bank robberies this year, but with the infusion of the task force, we'll be able to decrease that," said Manuel Johnson, spokesman for the FBI's field office in Phoenix.
Johnson cited several factors for the spike in bank robberies.
"Often, there's drug use because people are trying to support a drug habit or pay off a drug debt," Johnson said. "There's also the bad economic conditions. There's really not one cause for the increase."
Johnson said that although some gang members have come to Arizona from Los Angeles to rob banks, most are done by individuals acting independently, some of whom are serial bank robbers.
Johnson said that 75 percent to 80 percent of bank robberies are done with an individual either providing a written or verbal demand for cash. He also urged people to be good witnesses by seeing what a robber is wearing or any physical features such as tattoos or seeing what the robber touched while inside the bank.
The task force is seeking the public's assistance in locating "The Bad Hair Bandit," who is believed responsible for bank robberies throughout the Valley as he is wearing wigs, sunglasses and other disguises.
Most recently, "The Bad Hair Bandit" robbed the Desert Schools Federal Credit Union at 8220 Pasel del Norte in Scottsdale, shortly after 4 p.m. Wednesday, Johnson said.