Robbery of Squirrel Hill bank under police surveillance 'sort of embarrassing'
By Adam Brandolph
Published: Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, 2:30 p.m.
A robber left Pittsburgh police scratching their heads as detectives try to figure out how he knocked off a Squirrel Hill bank while officers had it and others nearby under surveillance.
Police on Monday said they suspect the same man, Joseph Guiney, 33, of Greenfield, of robbing four banks in the neighborhood this year.
Investigators said the suspect walked into the Citizens Bank branch on Murray Avenue about 11:40 a.m. Saturday, showed a gun and asked for money.
“Give it up; you gave it up last week, so give it up again,” Guiney told the teller, according to police. “I don't want to do this, but I have a problem.”
He ran off with an undisclosed amount of cash even though the bank was one of seven branches in a four-block area that police were watching that day.
“It's sort of embarrassing,” said Andrew Scott, a police consultant and former police chief in Boca Raton, Fla.
Police spokeswoman Diane Richard said officers responded quickly but “the suspect eluded them.” Police were asking for help finding Guiney.
“All it takes is less than four minutes for a bank to be robbed,” said robbery squad Sgt. Lavonnie Bickerstaff. “All you have to do is walk in, walk right back out. The banks aren't going to put up a fight, and they know that.”
Guiney is charged with two robberies on March 27 and Oct. 31, and detectives were getting an arrest warrant in Saturday's holdup and a Nov. 9 robbery.
Police set up surveillance to watch the Citizens, PNC, Fifth-Third, Parkvale, Dollar, First Niagara and First Commonwealth banks on Murray and Forbes avenues following three robberies in the area in a month.
“If they had somebody sitting on the bank and it's stationary surveillance, I would say ‘Oh my gosh, the cops screwed up badly,' ” Scott said. “If they're having roving surveillance, I would wonder if this could have been just a remarkable coincidence.”
Police said they did not have one person monitoring each bank. Bickerstaff would not say how many officers patrolled the neighborhood, nor whether they did so on foot or in marked or unmarked cars.
“If we were sitting on that one bank, there would be some issues, but we were everywhere ... cruising the back alleys, the back of the banks, the front of the banks,” she said.
The latest robbery was the fourth since Oct. 31. Police charged Guiney with a holdup that day at the First Niagara on Murray and plan to charge him with a Nov. 9 robbery at the Citizens Bank.
Police arrested Yamin Harris, 18, in the Nov. 7 robbery of the First National Bank on Murray.
“Obviously, this is something you want to control, but bank robbers, from what I've been told, almost always get caught,” said Raymond Baum, president of the nonprofit Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition.
Richard said more robberies typically occur this time of year “because people seem to need money for the holidays, they're down on their luck, or they're trying to feed a drug habit.”
Many banks have loss-prevention departments. Richard said police and FBI officers trained bank personnel on how to deal with robberies because it's difficult for police alone to monitor all the banks.
“It's like trying to find a needle in a haystack. What we have to rely on is the training of the bank personnel and the cameras inside the bank,” she said.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Fleury’s future at stake
- Jailed Hribal ‘fine,’ but family ‘terrible’ as answers in stabbing sought
- Five years later, Crosby wants another Cup win
- South Fayette parents express dissatisfaction with handling of bullying
- Penguins’ Malkin expects to play in Game 1
- Pitt wraps up spring football practice with closeness, competition
- Community turns out for Franklin Regional students’ return to class
- Pirates notebook: Wandy Rodriguez experiencing decline in fastball velocity
- Hempfield Area superintendent, business manager quit
- Obama, Biden to announce $500M for job training grants during W.Pa. visit
- South Fayette mother wants case against bullied son to be dropped